Here I Am by Dr. Joel M. Berman


“Tocho KeKevaro” – “the inside should reflect the outside.” It is a constant struggle for a person to maintain an appearance and behave commensurately with his inner feelings.

We are all very familiar with the incident of the burning bush. Moshe, while watching his father-in-law’s sheep, turns to see a bush engulfed in flames, yet not consumed by the fire. Hashem calls out to him from the midst of the bush and Moshe answers, “Hineini,” “Here I am” (Shemot 3:4). This answer is the same answer given by Avraham when summoned to the Akeidah of his son Yitzchak (BeReishit 22:1). Why is the word “Hineini” used as a response to Hashem by both Avraham and Moshe? Was it appropriate for each of them to respond to Hashem using the word Hineini?

Rav Yaacov Haber points out that few of us are familiar with the surprising commentary of the Da’at Zekeinim, who argues that Hashem was in fact angry with Moshe’s response. He quotes a Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2:6) where Hashem responds to Moshe, “Who are you to say ‘Hineini?’ Who are you to give the same answer as Avraham? Because of this, your descendants will be neither priests nor kings.”Rav Haber points out that a hint to this may be found in the next Pasuk, where Hashem instructs Moshe, “Al Tikrav Halom,” “Do not come closer to here” (Shemot 3:5).

What is most confounding about this Midrash is how Moshe is expected to know not to respond as Avraham did. Rav Haber explains the problem with Moshe saying Hineini is that Hineini implies both humility and willingness. We know Moshe as an, “Anav MiKol Adam,” “Humbler than all of mankind” (BeMidbar 12:3), however, willingness is something which Moshe did not originally have. Unlike Avraham Avinu who woke up early to do the will of Hashem, Moshe Rabbeinu argued with Hashem, claiming that he wouldn’t be believed or that he couldn’t enunciate his words properly (Shemot 4:1). Hineini was, at that time, incongruous with his personality. Although he would soon grow into the role, at that time, he wasn’t on the level of Hineini.

When we speak on a daily basis, we must ask ourselves if “Tocho KeVaro,” “If our insides reflects our outside.” While it certainly is a constant struggle for us to maintain appearances and behave in a manner commensurate with our inner feelings, we must strive to be genuine people who are true with ourselves and our peers.

Bad Fellows by Yosef Silfen

A Cursed Blessing by Moshe Davis