Aug 23, 2010

A-Jewel-A-Day: Elul 13

Jewels of Elul VI - The Art of Beginning...Again

Elul 13

Hineni by Daniel Schifrin

Throughout the Bible, God asks our prophetic ancestors: "Where are you?" "Hineni," they answer: "Here I am." The question is not a geographic one, but an existential one. Not just "Who are you?" but "What are you?" Or even: "Are you?"

"Where are you?" my wife Abby asked me, eight centimeters into our son Aviv's birth, as I fell to the ground in utter bewilderment. "Here I am," I tried to say before I blacked out. Ten minutes later, an icebag on my head, I collected myself so I could be present for the last hour of the birth.

Despite being absent for only a few minutes, my feeling of failure gnawed at me. Over the next two years I asked myself over and over: "Who was I that I couldn't have stayed conscious enough to help, much less say the words 'Here I am'?"

It was with an existentially overloaded agenda that I walked Abby into the hospital 33 months later, our second child ready to pop. What would the price of failure be this time if I couldn't answer the call? Strangely enough, it was the certainty of my imminent failure that saved me. I knew that fainting was certain, and I ceded control to whomever or whatever had wired me genetically. At the same time, I knew that I had done everything I could to prepare myself for this moment.

At 2 AM, my wife and our baby both reaffirming the thin line between life and death, I told Abby I was going to sit down and faint, and that I would be back soon. I was as good as my word. The nausea, the headache, the disorientation was just the same as before. But Abby knew where I was; knew what I was. And, most importantly, so did I.

Daniel Schifrin is Director of Public Programs and Writer in Residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Question of the Day
If you had to answer the question "What are you?" how would you answer?   .. (Join the conversation...answer the question and check out who is blogging today HERE.)