Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz

This week’s music: “Living on Through You” Dedicated to the memory of Dailah Lemkus

This week’s Torah portion begins with the statement, “V’eleh shmot B’nai Yisrael haba’im Mitzraimah,” and these are the names of the B’nai Yisrael that came to Mitzraim (Shmot 1.1). Reb Levi Yitzchak immediately asks the question, “why does the Torah need to say the word, “shmot,” the names, it simply could have said, and these are the B’nai Yisrael that came to Mitzraim, and then lsit the names as it does. The Rebbe first relates to the choosing of the names of all of the tribes and how all of our original mothers, Rachel and Leah chose names for their children. They wanted to connect their children, by name, to the highness of their Creator. Each of their names was of utmost importance.

Later on, Reb Levi Yitzchak cites the verse, “…v’yosef haya b’mitzraim.” and Joseph was in Mitzraim (Shmot 1.5). Was there anyone that knew the story of B’nai Yisrael and Mitzraim that didn’t know that Yosef was already there? Why does the Torah need to add, and Joseph was in MItzraim? What is the Torah teaching us here? Indeed Yosef was in Mitzraim, but he did not change his name. For that matter, even The Pharoah, who gave Joseph the name “Tzafnat Paneach,” “ revealer of secrets,” even he called him Yosef. As it says in Pharoh’s name, when the people of Mitzraim were crying out because there was a famine in their land, “go to Yosef and do as he tells you” (Bereshit 41.55). This fact that he did not change his name from his original “Ivri” name is directly related to all of the members of B’nai Yisrael who were able to survive numerous spiritual challenges during their time in Mitzraim and eventual merit the redemption from slavery as a result of not changing their names.

What is in a name? For one, we are taught that when parents are seeking a name for their child, Hashem blesses them with a spiritual sixth sense, if you will, to help them give their child the name that is most appropriate for the arrival of this particular soul into this world. What will be his character? How will she be seen in society? What specific role might this child have? What strength is in this name that will be given to this child that will help them survive the challenges in his/her lifetime?

My name tells me who I am and who I need to be. My name reminds me of my identification. In this sense all of the members of the 12 tribes and their offspring were reminded that they need to maintain their Israel identification, just as we today must maintain, strengthen and emphasize our Jewish identity above all. How are people looking at me? Make no mistake about it. Everyone is looking. Modern day B’nai Yisrael makes up less than one third of one percent of the entire world population and yet we are on the front pages of the newspapers more than any other nation. We are being looked to constantly to share wisdom, values, light and honor with the entire world. We need to ensure that people will not only respect and appreciate what they see, but that we are sending out the clearest, most honest holiest message that we know how to do. This is one of our most uniting factors. This is a Kiddush Hashem, and as Reb Levi Yitzchak might say, “and God forbid the opposite is a “chilul Hashem,” a disgrace to God’s name.

If we can just go a little deeper, it seems to me that each one of us has the ability to connect with the reason we were given our names and try to explore further how we can apply this to our daily lives. As we have been taught by the Slonimer Rebbe, in the name of the Holy Ari z”l, each of us, each of our souls, has a very specific task to accomplish in this world. Perhaps, therefore, it stands true that the names that were bestowed upon us by our parents, with the spiritual help of the infinite wisdom of our Creator and father in heaven, must very well be connected to our individual soul’s purpose in life.

May Hashem bless us with the strength to learn how to take a step back, assess our lives from within and without. In this way we can know who we are, identify ourselves in a deep spiritual way and be blessed to fulfill our unique purpose in this world on behalf of ourselves, our families, our nation, and all of the world.

Shabbat Shalom,
Yehudah