Shemot 5779

By: Dr. Jeffrey Buch

Shemot is the story of Moses and the people Israel.  It is also called the Exodus.  But literally, Shemot means “Names”.  But what is… in a Name?  G-d gives a name to the first man, Adam.  One of the important tasks which G-d gave to Adam, was to name the plants and animals of the Earth.  Is it as Shakespeare said that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, or do names really matter?  For instance, we call G-d, Hashem, The Name.  Isaac Ben Eliezer, the founder of Hasidism, is called the Baal Shem Tov, master of the good name.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?  I’m not so sure about that one, but it serves us well in childhood.  In adulthood, when we boil things done to their basics, Names do matter!

We go through life as descendants from a lineage with the same last name, and in honoring our father and our mother we honor that name.  As Jews, we shudder at the thought of a member of our Jewish family bringing shame or dishonor to the name, Jew.  Names conjure potent images and emotions of historical and spiritual importance.  Everyone knows and responds to certain Historic names such as Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Moses, Miriam, Aaron, and more recently Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill, Thatcher, Hillary, and dare I mention… Trump?

Names become real when they evoke emotion and inspiration in others so as to become something bigger than that individual person.  The task placed before Moses was to be the Israelite and Human representative and spokesperson for the One and Only G-d Almighty, not just G-d of the Israelites but the Creator of ALL.  How awesome was this responsibility!  How humbling was this task.  Yet, Moses lived through many travails, in such a way, as to grow into his Name, and to grow the emotional and inspirational response to his Name. Hashem does speak to us all, maybe not “face to face” as he spoke to Moshe, and obviously not with such a humbling task as to lead the Israelites out of bondage.  Yet, if we listen carefully with our heart, we can hear our specific individual tasks as members of our community.  Little by little, through how we respond to our travails, we can become our names.  When we care to honor our mothers and our fathers, we embellish our names so as to evoke emotions and inspiration in others that grow and support our community.  None of us here today, may ever lead a Nation out of bondage, but we may eventually find what it takes to grow into our Names.  Shabbat Shalom!