A community of communities

The Power of a Name

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 8:12am -- Rabbi

 

As our daughter finds language, mornings we hear her in her crib reciting lists of names:

"Hannah. Kliel. Emma. . . " she says,

calling out the names of her classmates at ECP. "Bubbie. Zaydie. Mommy. Abba. Nana . . ." Sometimes, when she is unsettled,

she reaches for her names.

Practicing the shapes of the sounds.

Stringing together vowels and consonants.

An incantation.  

The way we pray to the God of 

"Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Sarah. Rebecca. Rachel. Leah. Bilhah. Zilpah."

The way we insist on continuity.

The way to cling to life.

This week I have been thinking about names. We observed Yom Ha-Shoah, remembering the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The eleven million individuals killed by the Nazis. The survivors, their resilience and their legacies. It is impossible to wrap our minds around the gravity of this loss. In many communities, there is a custom of reading names of those whose lives were taken from them, to honor their memories. At the JCC of Manhattan, for the fifteenth consecutive year, people from all streams of Jewish life came to read names all through the night. They have not yet reached the one million mark of names spoken out loud. We pray that all their names and memories will be for blessing. 

 

As we give voice to each name, may we remember deep in our bones the irreplaceable holiness of each life. May the living waters of names nourish our world and our children.

May justice well up like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Amos, 5:24)

 

 

EACH OF US HAS A NAME

by Zelda

 

Each of us has a name

given by God

and given by our parents

Each of us has a name

given by our stature and our smile

and given by what we wear

Each of us has a name

given by the mountains

and given by our walls

Each of us has a name

given by the stars

and given by our neighbors

Each of us has a name

given by our sins

and given by our longing

Each of us has a name

given by our enemies

and given by our love

Each of us has a name

given by our celebrations

and given by our work

Each of us has a name

given by the seasons

and given by our blindness

Each of us has a name

given by the sea

and given by

our death.