Elul: Hineni (הנני) Presence

Elul is the Moon of Making Space (August/September)

Elul is a month to become “hollow to see what we will create in the space we make. We do tzimtzum, self-contraction, in memory of the first moment of making.”
~Rav Kohenet, Rabbi Jill Hammer via Telshemesh.org

Middah & Netivah

  • Hineni (הנני) Presence
  • Tzovah (צובאה) Shrinekeeper


  • Anavah (ענוה) Humility
  • Nedivut (נדיבות) Generosity 
  • Zerizut (זריזות) Enthusiasm


  • Adar (Feb/Mar)
  • Zehirut (זהירות) Illuminated Awareness
  • Leitzanit (ליצנית) Sacred Fool

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Hineni (הנני) Presence

Elul is the Moon of Making Space in my naming of the moons.  As Rav Kohenet Rabbi Jill Hammer teaches, this is the month when “we become hollow to see what we will create in the space we make. We do tzimtzum, self-contraction, in memory of the first moment of making.”

This is the month in our mussar cycle that sits between Courage and Responsibility. It’s the month where we empty ourselves out so we can come to the High Holidays ready to begin again.

[Saying Hineni] is a dramatic one-on-one experience without interpretive oversight or safeguards. 

Rabbi Simcha Prombaum

Hineni (הנני) simply means here I am.  In an essay on Hineni, Rabbi Simcha Prombaum explores the difference between hineni (הִנֵּֽנִי) — here I am — and hi’nih’ni (הִנְנִי֩) — I am here.  Hineni is Divine calling of your name without any knowledge of why.  In Rabbi Prombaum’s understanding, hi’nih’ni specifically relates to the written and documented mitzvot from the Torah and “traditional” practice. 

I understand it this way, Hineni is the kavannah (intention) and hi’nih’ni is more like the keva (form/structure). Kavannah calls us to presence and keva gives us the structure to take action from that place of presence, however we can take action without intention too.

When you first encounter the beauty of a tree there are no words. There is silent wonder. Spacious mind is present in wonder, not words. Your soul, your true nature as spacious mind, is lost when the wonder slips into words. To speak of the tree is to no longer commune with it. Its presence is past, and you glorify only memory. Do not rush to articulate wonder. Simply stand in its presence. 

R’Rami Shapiro commentary on Pirkei Avot 3:9

An image that I have associated from the beginning with the soul-trait of Hineni (הנני) Presence is that of a circle of trees.  In my minds eye, when I think of this soul-trait, I am transported to Muir Woods and the cathedral grove. These ancient trees are just fully present and allow you to become so too.

In the teachings of Kohenet, Elul is the month of the Tzovah (צובאה) Shrinekeeper netivah – archetype or pathway of the Divine.  It is the Shrinekeeper who meets us at the doorway of sacred places and challenges us to ensure we are entering in with a whole heart and help us transition our frame of mind to the holy. The Tzovah, like the trees, is present to invite presence.

This is different from mindfulness, which is for its own sake. Hineni is present for the sake of the Divine. It is being full in the moment so you can receive so you take action in an aligned way. Aligned with who/what? With the Divine, however you understand that. Cultivating Hineni allows us to make each moment one that is important, one that is doing the work of Tikkun (repair) — of the heart, of the soul, or of the world.


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At this moment in time…

  • WHAT does Hineni/Presence mean to you?
  • WHO is a model of presence for you?
  • HOW do you know you are present and when you are not?
  • WHEN are you or are you not able to be most present and when is it most important for you to be present?
  • WHY is presence important?
  • WHERE do you find it easiest/hardest to be present?

Text Study

  • Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1)
  • When Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” He answered, “Here I am.” (Genesis 27:1)
  • When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)
  • HERE AM I — An expression denoting humility and readiness: he was zealous to perform his father’s bidding, although he was aware that his brothers hated him (Rashi on Gen 37:13).
  •  Saying hineni, “here I am,” is not a mitzvah. It is a dramatic one-on-one experience without interpretive oversight or safeguards. (Rabbi Simcha Prombaum inspired by Danny Siegel)
  • Hineni is the kavannah (intention) and hi’nih’ni, a Hebrew word with the same root and letters but different vowels, is more like the keva (form/structure). Kavannah calls us to presence and keva gives us the structure to take action from that place of presence, however we can take action without intention too. (Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet)
  • She [shrinekeeper] tends the divine presence through attention to ritual. By preparing the space and guarding the threshold, she creates the separateness and holiness that make a shrine sacred. (The Hebrew Priestess by Rav Kohenet Rabbi Jill Hammer and Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ)


  • I call my whole self to Presence.
  • I can create and care for the sacred.
  • I live in a shrine of my own making.
  • I stand at the door between worlds.

from the Eht/Aht: a netivot wisdom oracle.

Embodied Practice

Close your eyes and breathe out.

Say your name three times, slowly — taking a full breath and leaving space between each time you say it.

Take another breath and visualize a shining light illuminating they way forward.

Breathe out and open your eyes.


  • Choose or be called to an object in the world (a feather, mushroom, coins, a specific type of graffiti, etc.) and each time you see it during the month – pause for a moment and take note of it. Maybe take a picture of it.  Make a note in your journal.  Use it as a call to come back into yourself.
  • Treat the sound of your name like the ringing of a bell that calls you to full, receptive, and open presence.

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