Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayikra

What Is In a Name?

Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig

The third book of the Torah begins with a calling, "And He (Hashem/G-d) called to Moshe." (Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1). The Medrash teaches that Moshe really had ten names, each one representing a different facet of his personality and accomplishments. Hebrew names are not coincidental; in truth, they describe the essence of the person or object of reference. Thus, when Adam named all of the animals of creation (Beraishis/Genesis 2:20) he was granted Divine Inspiration. He called himself Adam because he was of "adama", earth. The deeper significance to the name is that people, like the earth, are created without inherent worth but contain tremendous potential for growth and, when cultivated properly, bring forth a bounty of life. If Moshe possessed ten names, what was it about the name "Moshe" that it was his primary name? This name does not even refer to Moshe himself; rather, to the act of Pharaoh's daughter in drawing him from the Nile to save him. To the contrary, this name appears to be less meaningful than his other names that directly refer to his deeds and accomplishments.

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz (Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of the Mir Yeshiva, who led his students from the ashes of the European Holocaust to the glory of Jerusalem) explains that her act of drawing Moshe from the water was an act of great self-sacrifice. Pharaoh had decreed that all Jewish male children were to be killed and, at great personal risk, she disobeyed her father. Because Moshe's life was predicated on self-sacrifice, Hashem created within him a drive for self-sacrifice on behalf of others, arguably his most essential trait as leader of the Jewish nation and the foundation of many of his later accomplishments.

The Medrash relates a test formulated by Hashem to determine if Moshe possessed the traits requisite to lead the Jewish people. Moshe, like many of the leaders of Israel, was a shepherd. A lamb once strayed from the flock, and Moshe pursued it. The lamb found a spring and stopped to drink. Moshe caught up with the lamb and finally realized that the flight was simply due to the animal's unquenched thirst. He then hoisted the tired lamb onto his shoulders and brought him back to join the flock. When Hashem witnessed this pure act of chessed (loving kindness), without an ulterior motive or thought of recognition, He declared Moshe the ideal leader for His "flock".

In choosing the name with which to reference Moshe in the Torah, concludes Rabbi Shmulevitz, Hashem looked back to that initial act of self-sacrifice that both saved him and profoundly impacted his character, generating his ultimate potential. And with this choice, Hashem communicated the paradigm for true Jewish leadership: not the most skilled orator nor the most inspirational motivator, but the consummate master of self-sacrificial chessed.

Have a good Shabbos!


Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.

Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel ­ Center for Jewish Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999


 






ARTICLES ON VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

It's Good For You
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5763

G-d Willing!
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Straightening Out The Cause And The Effect
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

ArtScroll

Rachel's Sacrifice
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Our Power is Found
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Yesurim (Suffering) is Good For Our Souls
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Tzadik Does Not "Flee" He "Leaves" (With Dignity and Confidence)
Rav Frand - 5768

Chanukah Oil: A Real No-Know
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762

Leaving Ya’akov For Yisroel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

> Chanukah
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

The Merit of 20 Years of Honest Work Surpassed the Merit of the Forefathers
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

Maaser: Give Me a Tenth!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The Simile of the Dust of the Earth
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

Performances and Customs
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Growing Forever
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

It Can Only Hurt Not to Ask
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information