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Put a Name on It

By: Ms. Elisheva Baumol

Names are important. They define us, distinguish us from others; they also give us an opportunity to fulfill our destiny. Sefer Shmot begins with names; in fact the Torah spends a lot of time delineating names of children, of places, even of battles. It seems it wants to impress upon us the uniqueness of each individual and each event in history. Each of us is a unique soul, destined for our specific mission in the world. Rashi wonders at the first verse in our parsha why God recounts the names of the sons of Israel, and answers it is show God’s love. We can ask the same question about the mere inclusion of details and names throughout the Torah and the answer will be the same: put a name on something and you add significance to it, you make it personal, even eternal.

Torah reminds us of this important idea when it introduces to us the first heroines of our sefer—Shifra and Puah. Chazal identify these two righteous women with Yocheved (Moshe’s mother) and Miriam (Moshe’s sister). Why then does the Torah refer to their Egyptian names? Because, says Rashi, Shifra means that she strengthened (meshaperet) every child; Puah that she comforted the babies and made them feel good. Both of them defied Pharaoh and risked their lives but acted because they believed in God—they earned their names!

Moshe, too, is given a special name. According to Chazal he was called Tuvia—Good in the eyes of God—but that was not to be his ultimate name. Instead it was Moshe, drawn out of the water, the act of kindness which instilled in him the attribute of justice and love for fellow people.

The Midrash Tanchuma in Parshat Vayakhel also believes in names: It states that a person is given three names in their lifetime: one by parents, one by friends and the most important one is the name one makes for themselves.

As we grow up and specifically when we take a year to work on ourselves we have two jobs in successions: the first is to find our own unique names. What is my destiny? What are my unique qualities and how do I develop them. The next stage is to figure out how I can make a name for myself in this world. Whether it is through heroic acts of bravery, chesed, Torah learning or being the best friend in the world—we all have to assert ourselves and determine the power of our name and the blessing it bestows upon us and all those around us.

May it be the will of God that we all find our special names this year and learn from the Torah’s insistence on specifying our names, our missions, and God’s love for us in our lifetime.

Shabbat Shalom.





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