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Names and Nameless

02/26/2021 12:57:25 PM


  1.       Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach! This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tetzaveh is the only parasha from Moses’s birth to his final addresses in Deuteronomy in which his name is not mentioned. The parasha is still about him, of course, the entirety spoken by God to Moses with lots of second person pronouns used to refer to him. But chazal didn’t feel we needed reminders of who the “you” is throughout the portion, and so Moses’s name does not appear throughout these 101 verses.
  2.      Similarly, the Book of Esther never names God. There are references: Mordecai saying he doesn’t bow down to humans because he is a Jew, implying he would bow down to God; Esther fasting in supplication, presumably to God; Mordecai telling Esther that help will come from “another place” if she does not step up, again presumably that help being Divine; and so on. Yet God does not appear by name. Further, while many male side characters throughout the megillah get names, the only female characters with names are Esther, Vashti, and Zeresh. We never know the names of any of the other girls in the harem with Esther, the other women at the party with Vashti, or those of the handmaids and servants that attend to Esther.

     Who in our lives do we bother naming? For those whose names we don’t feel the need to say, is it because they are so obvious and grand, as with Moses in the parasha, or is it because they are so unimportant to our own narratives, as with the women of the megillah? How might we imagine ourselves in their narratives? Would our names be heard? This Shabbat and Purim, let us uplift the voices so often silenced, let us honor others by stating their names and titles, and let us remember to be humble in our interactions with people of all statuses. May we all be granted our names in any narrative within which we find ourselves. Amen and Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach.

Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782