November 19-20, 2021 Shabbat Vayishlach
16 Kislev 5782
Long before Shakespeare’s probing question, our ancestors understood the significance of one’s name. This week we read that our matriarch Rachel gave her son a name, only to have that name changed by Jacob, the child’s father: “…Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor… and as she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named him Ben-Oni; but his father called him Ben-Yamin. Thus Rachel died” (Genesis 35:16-19).
Rachel named her son Ben Oni (son of my sorrow) to reflect her own pain. Jacob changed his son’s name to Ben-Yamin (son of the right hand) to represent the hope that the son would be the source of his father’s strength. Rabbi Amy Joy Small writes that the change in name gave Benjamin the blessing of a promising future.
What’s in a name? To Shakespeare, one’s name does not necessarily reflect one’s inner qualities. Jewish tradition bestows names based on meaning and merit. After struggling with an angel, Jacob’s own name was changed from Ya’akov to Yisrael. Our Sages say that a name is a statement of one’s unique character and life path. For at the beginning of life we give a name, and at the end of life a “good name” is all we take with us (Talmud Brachot 7b).
The Hebrew word shem (name) is in the middle of the word neshama (soul). Our names reflect our souls. In what ways does your name reflect your soul?
Please join in this week’s Shabbat celebrations in the Synagogue or on Channel 1960.
(Masks required in Synagogue; no cell phones please)
Friday at 4:15 PM: Kabbalat (Welcoming) Shabbat and Ma’ariv (Evening) Services
Friday at 5:15 PM: Shabbat Blessings in Dining Room
Saturday at 10:00 AM: Shabbat Shacharit (Morning Service); Blessings in Dining Room at 12:00
Torah Talk – Shabbat afternoon at 1:30 PM in the Music Room (Limited seating; masks required)
Candle lighting time for the city of Mission Viejo: Friday evening at 4:27 PM
Shabbat ends Saturday evening at 5:24 PM
Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Sherman