What Is In A Name?
Most parents spend considerable time thoughtfully picking the names of their children. I remember all the hours my wife and I spent debating possible names for each of our three children. We wanted the name to be just right, one we both liked and one which would help them through life. No question there is power and meaning to someone’s name.
In fact in the Hebrew Bible the second book is called in the Hebrew language Shemot, which means names – in English we call it the book of Exodus. It is named after the first verse of the book of Exodus “These are the names of the sons of Israel…”
There is an ancient Jewish legend which teaches the great importance of names. The legend teaches each person has in reality three names: the name that parents give to him or her, one that friends bestow, and the one that God gives to a person at the end of his or her days.
The legend teaches about our character. Some of it is clearly given to us at birth, from heredity. Clearly we are influenced by our environment and our friends. But the name we really make for ourselves is one for which only we are responsible. We are all free agents. The real name we create for ourselves is the one we create by what we do and how we live our lives.
The terrible tornado in Mobile has been a true test of the names we are creating for ourselves. As Rabbi I have personally witnessed many of our members doing extraordinary acts of kindness and dedication on behalf of our historic Springhill Ave. Temple. Similarly many people have already created names for themselves, ones of remarkable generosity. As this New Year begins it is most appropriate for us to ask what is the name we are creating?