do you need your name?

Thursday, 8 January, 2015 - 1:36 pm

This week I participated in a course about officiating at a wedding ceremony, given by the Rabbinical Center of Europe.

We had four full days of in-depth and comprehensive study of the entire subject, from the stage of Shidduchim (matchmaking) through the Kiddushin (the giving of the ring), the Ketuba (marriage contract) and the Nissu’in (actual marriage). At the end of it all we were given a long and difficult test. Whoever passed it will receive a certificate from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, certifying one as a “Certified Officiator at Wedding Ceremonies.”

On the important things in writing the Ketuba is getting the names of the bride and groom right. The names must be very exact, very accurate, so that even many years from now people will know whose Ketuba it is.

In Chassidic writings it is explained that a name, though it might be very important, is still something external. In other words, a person needs a name so that others will be able to communicate with him or her, but he or she can really manage without a name. For example, if one is closed in a room, alone, for a whole day, there is no need to have a name – there is no use for it.

In other words, the name of something is not the thing itself; they are two separate things: the thing and its name.

This is true of the Jew’s Neshama (soul), as well. The essence of the Neshama has a very sublime source – “a part of G-d Above really,” as it says in the Tanya. This essence does not come down and merge with one’s body. What does merge with us is the “name” of the Neshama, in other words, only its external expression. And though it is indeed an external expression, it is one that is very connected with the Neshama itself, and even draws its power from the Neshama itself Above.

We gain from the fact that only the “name” of the Neshama merges with us, while its essence remains Above. What we gain is that in every situation we might be in – exile, difficulties, tight spots, internal, personal, private exile or external exile of the nation as a whole – always, always, the Neshama itself remains clean and free. And when the Neshama itself is free, its “name” too, that which is merged with us, with our bodies, will always be able to draw strength from it and remain free of any exile, difficulty or tight spot.

This is what the Rebbe taught us in connection with Parashat Shemot, which we will read this Shabbat in the Torah. In this Parasha the exile of the Jewish People begins – the Egyptian exile. The Parasha is called “Shemot”, and the entire Chumash (book) is called Shemot as well, to tell us that only the “name” of our Neshama is in exile, but the Neshama itself never goes into exile.

If we will always remember this, we will be able to draw much strength from it, and will be able to rise high and overcome any situation and get out of any tight place.


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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