Miketz 5761

Tora - Torah

Parshat Miketz 4 Tevet, 5761 December 30, 2000

Something Old:
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Something New:

Being a Mohel, I spend a lot of time discussing Hebrew names with parents and grandparents. Sadly, I have discovered that a remarkable number of people don’t know who they are… that is, they don’t know their names. If I met someone who didn’t know their English name, I would suggest they see a doctor (mental or physical). But to whom do you refer someone who doesn’t know his or her Hebrew name?

True story I once asked a baby’s father if he was a Kohen or a Levi and he said he didn’t know but he would ask his father. He came back and said his father wasn’t sure but he thought he was alitvak! (If you don’t understand that, kids, ask your parents).

I tell parents a legend that when you die and go to heaven, your “user ID” to get in is your Hebrew name and if you don’t know it, you don’t get in. I suggest that once we determine the name for them and the new baby, that they use the name to address the child so that he/she learns to “own” it. Think of the Hebrew name as the name of the soul and the English one as the name of the body. Perhaps on Shabbat, from Friday night to Saturday night, use only the Hebrew name to address the child. It makes it something very special.

What’s the Torah part of this? Yoseph (Joseph) becomes the second in command of Egypt. Pharaoh’s other officers were not happy. In the Talmud we learn Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba said in the name of Rabbi Johanan “At the moment when Pharaoh said to Joseph, And without thee shall no man lift up his hand, Pharaoh’s astrologers exclaimed ‘Wilt thou set in power over us a slave whom his master bought for twenty pieces of silver!’ He replied to them, ‘discern in him royal characteristics.’ They said to him, ‘in that case he must be acquainted with the seventy languages.’ Angel Gabriel came and taught [Joseph] the seventy languages, but he could not learn them. Thereupon [Gabriel] added to his name a letter from the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and he learnt [the languages]…” (Sotah 36b) (also read Psalms 81 for a source for this).

A new name for Yoseph (Yehoseph) opened new doors for learning, growth and understanding. No doubt his Egyptian name empowered him in different ways as well.

What’s the Tora part of all this? We should spend our white-through-brown years discovering who we are and what we are capable of doing. Then at Black we receive a new name and expand our challenge and strive even higher. The new name doesn’t replace the old name. It opens new doors to explore the destiny of our soul in this life.

What’s in name? Everything! Work hard and remember who you are.

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted 'Tora tiger' logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.
"Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.
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