Sharing Torah Insights

The Power of Names

Posted on ט״ו בטבת ה׳תש״ע (January 1, 2010) | in VaYechei | by

This week’s Dvar Torah is dedicated for a Refuah Sheleima for Sarah Freida bat Shoshana.

הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל-רָע, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-הַנְּעָרִים, וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי, וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק; וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב, בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ.

The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named in them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’

Everyone knows the famous Bracha (above) that Yaakov gives to Yosef’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, but what does it really mean?

The Kli Yakar explains וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי, וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק (let my name be named in them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac) in an interesting way. He says the blessing means that Ephraim and Menashe should be blessed with all the characteristics epitomized by the names “Avraham”, “Yitzchak”, “Yaakov” and “Yisrael”.

  • Avraham means אַב-הֲמוֹן גּוֹיִם- the father of a multitude of nations (17:5 בְּרֵאשִׁית). This Bracha means that they should be at the head of all other nations.
  • Yitzchak means laughter, blessing them that they should always be filled with happiness.
  • Yisrael comes from כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל – for you have fought with angels and with men, and have prevailed. (32:29 בְּרֵאשִׁית) This Bracha means that they should always be able to overcome their internal obstacles.
  • Finally Yaakov comes from the saying עקב רב טוב הצפון לצדיקים – because of all the good reserved for Tzaddikim in the future. This Bracha tells them that even though sometimes life seems hard, they should draw strength from knowing that ultimately they will be rewarded for all the good that they do in their lives.

What is most interesting to me is that from this we see the true power of names. Names are not just a way to get a particular person’s attention but contain meaning about who that person is.

I heard from a podcast by Rabbi Berel Wein recently that this is why HaShem called Moshe “Moshe” when tasking him with saving the Jewish people. The Midrash tells us that Moshe was given another name at his birth and the name Moshe was only given by the daughter of Pharaoh. Why would HaShem choose to call Moshe by his Egyptian name?

Rabbi Wein explains the answer simply. When Moshe resisted and said to HaShem that he couldn’t speak well and couldn’t possibly be the man best suited for saving the enslaved Jewish people, HaShem responded by saying “your name is Moshe, which means drawn out [of the water]. It is for this purpose that you were saved from the Nile.”

This, said Rabbi Wein, is the value of reading the names of all the people who perished in the Holocaust. We are reminding ourselves that just as those people and their names had power, so do we. Just like Moshe, we should remember that we have all been saved and placed here for a reason.

We all have our own unique name with our own unique purpose. But we should remember that we are not alone; we have been blessed with all the powers of our ancestors as well.

Shabbat Shalom

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One Response to “The Power of Names”

  1. Yisroel WIlhelm says:

    Yasher Koach, I will repeat this tonight at the Shabbos table, and add about the importance of using their Jewish name, at least once in a while.


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