names

Vayikra: A Book of Love

Perhaps Man’s greatest fear is his ultimate irrelevance, that we really don’t make a difference and that in the greater scheme of things, our lives are for naught. This is why people yearn to leave a legacy, and it is often for this reason that people have children. The historical tendency to value male babies over females is due to the fact that it was (is?) the male who would carry on the family name and legacy. Upon marriage, females were typically absorbed into the family of the husband.

Bamidbar: Names and Numbers

Parshat Bamidbar is, on its surface, little more that names and numbers. The bulk of the parsha lists the counting of the Jewish people, tribe by tribe. People tend to skim over these “boring details”. Yet names and numbers provide a good deal of insight, representing as they do much more profound ideas. A cursory glance at the names in our parsha highlights a common feature of Torah names. More often than not, biblical names represent ideas and highlight the themes of the story. The names of the leaders of the tribes not only identify them, but also define them.

Shemot: No Names

Sefer Shemot, literally, “book of names”, seems to be a misnomer for our Parsha.  (Rabbinic writings often refer to it as “book of redemption".) While the Torah lists the names of the 12 sons of Jacob who came to Egypt with their families, the Jewish people quickly became a nameless and faceless people; something that, in all likelihood, contributed to their eventual slavery. While numerous, there were apparently no outstanding leaders worthy of mention.

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