I love names! Actually I love stories about names and understanding all the meanings we attach to our names and our name changes and even our struggle with remembering names! What makes a “popular” name?
What to do with a name that everyone makes fun of? Why is it important to call someone by their name? It really all starts back in the Torah when Adam is named and then Adam gets to name all the animals. The power of being the “namer” is also important. There is a new book from the PJ Library titled Adam’s Animals by Barry L. Schwartz. It is a wonderful book with great pictures of animals and it is done alphabetically, which is fun! However, the story ends differently than the Torah rendition — when Adam meets the woman, he asks, “Should I name you?” and she responds that she already has a name. Yet in the Torah, it says “the man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” So was the author just not up on his Torah or is he making a statement? And we are back to names and interpretations and power and change and…
The Torah is filled with names and people without names — what’s that all about? Who are Irad and Lamech and Zillah (hint: Genesis 4:17-19) and why do they have names when poor Noah’s wife will forever be Noah’s wife or names she is given in Midrash? Later in the book Abram and Sarai get their names changed; Isaac is named because Sarah laughed when she heard she would have a child; the book of Exodus in Hebrew is Shemot — Names; we know of Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ siblings but his parents are called “a certain man” and a “Levite woman.” So many great stories!
This brings us to our own names — all of us who are parents know the challenge and fun of choosing names for our children. We must tell them the stories that go with the choices because your name is linked to who you are. Jewish tradition teaches that each of us has three names: the one we are given at birth, the one we are called, and our real name.
The challenge is to discover our real name. So what is our “real name”? It is the name we make for ourselves by our deeds and how we live our lives.
One more thought to ponder as you think of names and meanings: The sages tell us that there are 70 names of God and each of us also has many names (probably not 70). I tell my classes my many names that I am called (although I don’t share all!): Laura, Mrs. Seymour, Mom, Grandma, Torah Laura, Carpool Lady and more. We believe there is only one God and I am definitely only one person — so what do the names represent? What changes — the one being called or the caller?
What do you want to be called?
What name do you prefer?