Brookwrite

Columns - 2015

    Here I am

    It's that time of year. Synagogues are mailing about High Holy Day tickets, entries in Yizkor books, and other things that help each year feel shorter than the Mets' tenure in first place.

    Therefore, it's their fault -- and not this column's -- that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur feel so close.

    In the 1980s, in New York, Crazy Eddie's would have Christmas sales in August. In the spirit of Christmas sales past, this is a High Holy Day column in July.

    One of the unique prayers in the Yom Kippur service is the Hineni. Literally, it means "Here I am." It's an introductory supplication sung by the cantor, as the representative of everyone. Even that guy who disbanded UAB football. (Who needs to atone more?)

    It begins "Here I am, deficient in good deeds, trembling in awe..." You get the idea. Lots of praise of the Big G, leading up to a plea for mercy and return while reflecting on mistakes -- on moments of straying -- during the past year.

    It's a lovely prayer, often chanted as the cantor enters from the back of the sanctuary, approaching the ark from among the people. But people today don't always get into even the more grand liturgy. Even those who do sometimes don't really get into what it means.

    So, in an age of inclinations to modernize melodies, services, and the trendy colors for kippot, this column proposes a change. This proposal is early enough that there's plenty of time for religious committees around the world to carefully consider how quickly they will reject it outright.

    Proposition: Replace the Hineni prayer with Air Supply's 1981 hit song, "Here I Am."

    Before going further, a point of clarification. Most of our three readers are probably confusing this with the other Air Supply hit from the same album, "The One That You Love." That song's chorus begins "Here I am, the one that you love..." This confuses an absurd number of people.

    The actual song "Here I Am" merely begins with those three words. The chorus is "Just when I thought I was over you..." which is the song's subtitle.

    There's so much confusion about most prayers, that this confusion makes the song fit right in with them.

    But if that's not qualification enough, consider the underlying meaning and intent of the Hineni prayer as you read the lyrics of "Here I Am":

    Here I am,
    Playing with those memories again
    And just when I thought time had set me free
    Those thoughts of you keep haunting me.

    Holding you,
    A feeling I never outgrew
    Though each and every part of me has tried
    Only you can fill that space inside

    So there's no sense pretending,
    My heart, it's not mending.

    Just when I thought I was over you
    And just when I thought I could stand on my own
    Oh baby those memories come crashing through
    And I just can't go on without you.

    It's a love song. Nearly every Air Supply song for forty years has been. Okay, so the Big G might not take well to the "oh baby." But doesn't the song mirror the intent of the cantor? Approaching the Big G in supplication, looking back at recent events, as someone who has strayed and feels empty for it? Admitting to shortcomings, and asking for the chance to come back?

    If that wasn't convincing enough, try the second verse.

    On my own,
    I've tried to make the best of it alone
    I've done everything I can to ease the pain
    But only you can stop the rain

    I just can't live without you,
    I miss everything about you.

    [chorus]

    Who can stop the rain? Who is the one without whom there would be no life?

    The more you compare the song to the Hineni, the more it fits. Try it yourself. Join the almost-more-than-one people who have been thinking through these lyrics during the Hineni for the past several years.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who is a lifelong, devout Air Supply fan. He has met Graham and Russell -- the two men who are Air Supply -- twice. After this, they probably won't let there be a third. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit http://brookwrite.com/. For exclusive online content, follow facebook.com/the.beholders.eye.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.