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D'var Torah for Parshat Shemot - Say Their Names

01/06/2021 11:36:39 AM


12 tribes of Israel in stained glass

These are the names of the Children of Israel who came down to Egypt with their father, Jacob and their households:
Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Judah, Yisachar, Zebulon, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher...and Joseph who was already in Egypt.

Rashi (11th century French Rabbi)
Didn't the Torah already tell us this information at the end of the Book of Genesis?  Why the repetition?  Only to inform us how beloved they were to G-d, as a lover says the name of their beloved over and over, and to recall that the Children of Israel are likened to the stars about whom Isaiah says: G-d numbers the stars at their rising and names them at their setting.  

The Sayings of the Wise (super commentary on Rashi)
We know that the stars are still shining, even in the day when they are not seen.  In the same way, the light of the Children of Israel, the light of those we remember in love, though it be hidden, will never stop bestowing blessing. 

Who better than us Jews know the power of saying the names of those we love and revere?  We name our children for them.  We are even called by their names as part of our names: the son of, the daughter of...and those names we know carry so much meaning, power, love and strength. 

Saying the names of our children when we ask G-d for blessing evokes in us such tenderness, such yearning, such determination to make this world a place fit for them.  The power of names is immense.  

When we evoke the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, we access deep energies that go beyond understanding and explanation.  And when we say the name of G-d with intention,  we infuse life with meaning and existence with a deeper reality.  

When those seeking justice cry out the names of those denied justice,  the foundations of human society tremble.  When those seeking inspiration say the names of people of genius, the darkness and silence is driven back.  When those exiled from their home say the names of the places they remember, light comes back into their eyes.  

There are those who say that the Torah itself is nothing more or less than a 600,000-letter scroll of names.  

Accustom yourself to saying the names of those you love and long for, remember and hope for.  Make a litany of them, write songs containing them.  Write an acrostic poem, or paint a picture, draw a doodle or meditate with them as a mantra.

And accustom yourself to naming yourself with your Hebrew name, the name that connects you to an ancient line stretching back to Sinai, the name from which you can draw strength the same way that the bud atop the highest branch of the tree draws sustenance from the deepest root.  Use that name, those names, for your children, your parents and your friends and discover how much new beauty you will see and new understanding you will achieve.

These are the names of the Children of Israel.  These are your names, your links to the deepest springs of the soul, the locks that open the doors of destiny and blessing.  Say the names.

Wed, July 28 2021 19 Av 5781