Shemot – What’s in a Name?

The word ‘shemot’ means ‘names’. A name can never describe the essence of the person, and yet it identifies him or her.  Likewise, G-d has many names which help us identify G-d’s nature and various attributes but can’t reflect the essence of G-dliness. Just as we strive to know a person beyond the name, so we strive to know G-d beyond Its names. Notes: • We begin a new seifer this week, the book of Shemot, which literally means ‘names’. • What is the purpose of a name? You know who you are without a name? A name only facilitates identity for someone else, not you. Yet a name becomes a real part of you, and you will always react to your name being called. • We are taught that when we give the name to a child, that name relates directly to the soul of the child.  It is the singular moment when we are gifted with actual prophecy – to name the child. • But the name will never be essence of the child – just the external identity mark for society. • Similarly G-d has names such as Elokim, Shechina, and Yud Kei Vav Kei and others. These are identity marks for us, never describing the essence of G-d. G-d has different identities e.g. the G-d who can only be perceived through nature i.e. Elokim, or the G-d who flows beneficence  – Hessed on us viz. Yud Kei Vav Kei. • Names are significant because they point to a person. But to touch the essence of a person one has to see the soul. And for that a name is inadequate. • Remember, you are more than your name.