Thursday, May 29, 2008

“What is the name You use?”

Maven at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham, MA

By By Ellen Bernstein (Intro by Jake Goodman)

Storah On The Road

On Friday, May 9th, Shira Kline and I performed a Maven Torah Reading Ritual for Parshat Emor at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham, MA called “Pierced”. It centered around the power of names, especially the power of THE name. There are so many wonderful moments to share from that weekend, but seeing as how I often write on this blog, I decided to share this space with one of Congregation Sha’aray Shalom’s congregants, Ellen Bernstein.

I do not know Ellen very well. After the Maven ritual, she came up to both Shira and myself, introduced herself, and shared a gorgeous and soulful piece she wrote about what it meant to be a Jew, after seeing a previous Storahtelling performance. The very next morning, Ellen returned to us with the beautiful writing that you can find below, inspired by “Pierced”. I want to share it with you.

Ellen, thank you so much.

Yaweh, Lord, Hashem, Adonia, a higher power…………… God,

What is the name you use?

What is it about a name that is so difficult to pick? To remember? To give? Do you use a game, an association, to remember someone you just met? Repeat the name over and over? Make a rhyme? Ask once twice three times to remember it? Do you just hear it and then it is gone yet you continue to talk and get to know this person nameless as they maybe at the moment. Why is it we, I, cannot seem to remember a name from one second to the next, from one meeting to the next. What is the name? What does it represent? By sharing your name with me you have welcomed me into your life, your community your worId? You have shared your chosen name, shortened or a nickname, or you have told me your given name, do not change it we are not that welcome to change who they are to you. Not yet. I hated choosing names for my children. I was always happy to know if I was having a boy or a girl so that I would only have to think of one set of names. How do you name them for someone you do not remember or did not know? Someone your child may never meet? How do you chose one person to honor over another. How do you name someone you have not met, have not seen, someone you do not know? You feel them, you dream of them, celebrate them but how do you name them? They are not real… yet. They are not here in your arms or your eyes but they are in your heart. How do you name someone, something you don’t understand? You know they exist, he or she, it. But can a single word truly define who they are, what they mean to you. Is it just a label so that you may speak of them? Is it a label so that you may begin to define them, to believe in them, to make them real? How can you give someone or something a name that can be with them for their lifetime, for your lifetime? A name, a meaning, a belief, a label, a declaration that this person, this being, this higher power has a place in your life, in the world, in the universe, a name that means one thing to me and something totally different to another. A name that reminds you of a dog you knew , or a mentor, a rabbi, a boss, an experience, a hero, a loved one. A name that fills your head, your heart your being with joy, sadness, excitement, anxiety, peace. A name that is a word, a label, an insult, a term of endearment, a secret shared, a secret kept, a belief, a declaration. A name that is something to you that you cannot explain to another, something so strongly felt that should it be used by another in the wrong way can cause pain, anger, hatred, heart break and when used with understanding, love imagination can bring joy, amazement, astonishment, awe. How do you chose a name when there is no name, no single word or phrase that allows you to share what it means to you?

Is this why there are so many names for God? Adonia as we sing it in prayer, My God as we watch in horror, Halleluyah as we celebrate, Hashem as we reflect? It is difficult to pick just one that will define someone, something, some feeling… for a lifetime.

A name….. It is what it is.

“I am that I am. “

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