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What's In A Name?

By Tamar Yonah
10/23/2008, 12:00 AM

Keeping up the Blog: Folks, I am tired.  I need a vacation.  Yvonne is wanting me to blog some more, and she is right. But I don't feel like I have what to blog about right now.  My life is boring, cooking, cleaning, hosting, and generally feel right now in a rut.  

So, what should I write to you all about? I can tell you about the Shabbat I spent in Sussya last week during Chol HaMoed Sukkot.  I can tell you that the people that live next door to where I was visiting in Sussya, have no father at home. It is sad to see kids growing up without a father.  Dalia, the wife, and her 9 kids live alone now. Dalia's husband, Yair Har-Sinai, doesn't live in Sussya anymore.  He was a good Jew.  He was a mild mannered shepard.  He lived like in the bible, very close to nature. 

Yair had good relations with the Arabs who lived near Sussya. I always remember Yair wearing white.  The times I saw him, he would wear white cotton pants and a white baggy gauze shirt, with his blond beard, long blond sidelocks of hair flying in the wind.  He was a settler.  He loved the Land, and loved people from all races.  Yair, made it his policy to not wear or use a gun . I remember Yair, yet his face fades from my memory as the years pass by.  You see, Yair was murdered.  He was out in the field with his sheep, and while he was sleeping that night, he was approached by two Arabs and shot in the head.  Shot twice.   And that was it. (Yes, I can hear Mike from Vienna jumping up and down and screaming, why didn't he have an AK47 or some other weapon on him.) But people live by their principles. Even if he had a gun, he was alone sleeping when the Arab terrorists murdered him. Yair's wife, Dalia,  and their nine children are making it, but it is sad to see his children growing up without their father.

I can also blog and tell you about the guests that were at the Shabbat table in Sussya.  One was a very handsome young man, blond, blue eyes, looking to get married.  He's deaf, like my nephew in the USA, but I never learned sign language, and I believe anyway, that sign language is different in different countries.  He smiled a lot and tried to 'listen' in to the table conversation.  I felt bad I couldn't communicate with him more than just smiling back and giving him warm eye contact.  -Are there any Jewish women out there in their early twenties that are interested???  Sorry, i am still a Jewish mother at heart. 

Another guest at the table was a man from Belgium and then Holland.  He was a convert to Judaism, a former Christian minister.  A very nice man whose English was better than his Hebrew  -for the time being at least.  Not much English is spoken in Sussya, it is very Israeli, and good place to go to if you want to immerse yourself in Hebrew.  And then there was a young man from Canada, early twenties I would guess.  It's hard to describe him, he reminded me a bit of Forrest Gump, someone who speaks little, but comes up with simple masterpiece points about life.  He was saying that when he went back to Canada to visit his family, he started using his family's Hebrew names instead of their given English names.  He stated matter of fact-ly  that a Jew can relate better to another Jew, when they use their Hebrew names.  At the table when he was saying this, I was just nodding my head and smiling, being polite, thinking, 'I wonder what his siblings thought about that'.  But it was only a little later that his words sank in.  I know that on a spiritual level, using one's Hebrew name, their REAL name, makes a deep connection with one's 'neshama', one's soul.  In fact, it brought back a memory of my own, when in high school, I decided I wanted to be called only by my Hebrew name, 'Tamar'.  Until then, my family and friends called me by my nick-name, 'Tammy'.  My official name though, was always 'Tamar'.  But living in America, I got an English nickname, it was just easier for everyone.  I remember, I always dreaded that first day of school when they would read from the roster, our names for the first time.  My non-Jewish teachers, never hearing the name 'Tamar' would always pronounce it wrong, in front of the whole class.  I would shrink and cringe from embarrassment when they would twist 'Tamar' into Tammer, Tamra, Tamara, Tomar, etc.   I always told them exasperatingly, "Just call me 'Tammy' ".  It wasn't until I was 15, when I graduated Jr. High and entered high school, that I decided that now I wanted to be called Tamar, and not Tammy anymore.  It wasn't easy.  I was to meet and make new friends in my new school, but my family was a different story.  My siblings had called me Tammy for as long as I could remember.  So each time they called me 'Tammy' after that day, I answered them by calling them names that were not theirs. When they looked at me quizzically on why I was calling them odd names like Herman or Gretchen,  I would simply remark to them, "If you call me by a name that is not mine, I will call you by a name that is not yours either."  I was stubborn, and probably one pain in the behind, but it worked.

A name is very important, it defines a person.  I won't go into the Kabalistic reasons of the importance of a name, or how the Hebrew letters make up the name of a person and what they mean, that's for another time, but perhaps one of you would like to leave a talk back on it….    In any case, if any of you readers out there have been given a Hebrew name, you really should start to use it. You should also call your family by their Hebrew names as well. I cannot tell you how many times I receive emails from listeners who sign their letters something like this:

(made up example only)

"…Thanks for your time, Tamar.

Sincerely,

Stephen (Shmuel) Davidson"

If  this 'Stephen' went in the USA by his Hebrew name 'Shmuel', he would be related to differently there.  Perhaps in a good way,  perhaps not.  But people WOULD relate to him differently.  Shmuel would also realize, that he is a foreigner, a sojourner in a host country, not his own.  Albeit, his host country may be a very nice and benevolent one, but he would know deep inside that he does not really belong there. Keeping our Hebrew names while sojourning in Egypt is one of the things that gave merit to the Jewish people to be redeemed.  It is THAT important! Look at our brother, 'Mike' in Vienna.  Perhaps he would feel different if he went by his Hebrew name in America, which most probably would be (?) Mikha-el from Vienna.  How much stronger a Jew he would be?!  Just imagine, what changes might take place in his life if he went by his Hebrew name and correct pronunciation, and not write and use the English pronunciation of 'Michael' or 'Mike'. …And Mike, this is not an attack on you.  I have no wish to hurt or embarrass you, I am just pointing out that all of us with Hebrew names should use them proudly, and perhaps it just may change who we are, ….and who we will become!

Shana tova!  May we all be blessed for a good year!