Hineini – Here I Am

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By Rachel Steinberg

According to the United States Department of Agriculture more than 23 million people in the United States live in “food deserts” meaning they have limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

On the news earlier this week, I heard a story about a woman named Asha Walker, who founded an organization called Health in the Hood. She set out to connect communities to wellness with a simple idea – to create local vegetable gardens to feed and inform communities in need. With the support of donors and community partners, she constructed an urban vegetable garden in 2013 in Florida and has since expanded to a network of nine urban farms and has distributed over 8,000 pounds of fresh, local produce to families in need. Through her work she is creating healthier communities, “one garden at a time”.

Asha’s story really resonated with me and got me to thinking about deserts and the connotation that they are desolate, often devoid of life, and perhaps forbidding.

In a way, Asha reminds me of Moses when God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses, Moses.”

Henini – Here I am!” Moses said.

The burning bush revelation – in the middle of the desert – empowered Moses to take a stand. To proclaim, Hineni, here I am.

Asha, too, was empowered to proclaim, Hineni, here I am. She brought purpose and meaning to the desert. A different kind of desert, indeed, but a desert, nonetheless.

While camp is certainly not a desert, like Asha and Moses we are challenged to find purpose and meaning, Binah, in the everyday. And we are challenged to find opportunities to say “Hineni” – Here I am. We are called upon to use our strengths, share our insights, raise awareness, and offer our support and understanding. It may not always be easy – in fact, sometimes it may be really hard – but to shy away from this challenge would deny us the opportunity to learn and grow and to help others who may really need us. By accepting this challenge, we learn to take reasonable risks, build and strengthen relationships and contribute to our community in a meaningful way.

We often hear that it is the journey, not the destination that matters. It is the journey that brings us meaning, fulfillment and purpose.

The Traveler’s Prayer — or Tefilat Haderech in Hebrew — is said as we embark on a journey. The prayer asks God to protect the traveler from any dangers they may encounter along the way and to return them in peace.

I have read different versions of the Traveler’s Prayer, and in fact, I think I may have shared this one with camp before. But, I wanted to share it again as we take a moment to reflect on the long journey to the summer of 2021.

Every life, every day, every hour is a journey. In the travel is the discovery, the wisdom, the joy. Every life, every day, every hour is a journey. In the travel is the reward, the peace, the blessing.

As I said (actually shouted) in the Chadar Ochel the other day, we did it. We are here – Henini. And for that, I know we are all incredibly grateful.

Rachel Steinberg is an Assistant Director at Camp Harlam. It is her 10th summer at Harlam. She lives in Fort Washington with her husband and two campers!