Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What’s Your Name?

Crack. A whip rips at your back. Still you don’t change your name. You feel the blood pouring out of yet another open scar. Still you don’t change your name. Your broken nails try in vain to lay a brick. Still you don’t change your name. Ankles rubbed raw from chains too tight. Still you don’t change your name. Cracked cheeks sting from your salty tears. Still you don’t change your name. Your son thrown into the river. Still you don’t change your name. Your daughter made to live like them. Still you don’t change your name. No, you will never change your name.

And we go through the daily routine, confined to petty detail, limited by our (im)possibilities, restricted to our naiveté. We awake to the same alarming ring; drink the same coffee, black with a shot of espresso; fold the same newspaper; pass the same people; catch the same train; work the same hours; talk to the same friends; ignore the same foes; read the same books; write the same checks; eat the same supper (or, maybe mix things up – go out to eat, though probably to the same restaurant); waste the same time; bored with the same things. Or, if you were a “pioneer”, you might do it all differently: awake to a different alarming ring; drink a different coffee, milk and two sugars; catch the next train; work overtime… And no matter how different you are, no matter how many sugars you use to sweeten your coffee, your life still remains bitter – like the Egypt of yesterday, the Egypt of today is a “life of bitterness”.

How does one escape a cyclonic cycle (psycle?) – does one just peddle away? Or, maybe this is the ultimate, a life restricted yet predictable: yes, you are stuck in a bind, but at least you won’t float away; true, you are tied in do-knots, but at least you won’t trip on a rebellious shoe lace.

One famous Jew, a Mr. Zimmerman, once said, “The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter”. Names are all we have to go on. The only way to relate – or relate to – an idea, thing, emotion, is by naming it. If a something remains nameless, then it remains reticent as well: a thing unnamed is a thing unapproachable, and, therefore, reproachable.

Essence, on the other hand, cannot be named – if it could, it wouldn’t be Essence. Though it is the source – indeed, because it is the source – it remains aloof, untouched by terminologies, languages, lexicons, or any other anthropological (or illogical) terms. Essence can therefore never be contaminated – it is beyond those petty daily routines.

“These are the names of the Children of Israel that came to Egypt”. As a child, I could never understand how the second of the Five Books Of Moses, Shmos (Hebrew for Names) etymologized into Exodus – one is referring to the enslavement of the Jewish People, while the other is referring to their “exodus”?

The first line of Shmos says it all: “These are the names… that came to Egypt”. Only a part of the Jew descended into the limitations of Egypt, (in Hebrew, the word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, finds the same root as Maytzar, boundary, as in restriction.) namely: their names – only an external, albeit vital, part of them. However, the Divine Spark, the Essence, never even descended into the parochial Egypt, and therefore can never be mummified by some Egyptian bondage (!).

But if one were to exit Egypt the way one entered, with no essential change, then wherein lies the purpose of the whole ordeal – if no ascent, why the descent? Ah, yes, of course: though names are certainly not Essence, they most definitely are Essential, and can therefore furnish Essence with something it does not “possess” on its own – overcoming obstacle, turning dark into light, throwing off the chains of Egypt.

This named ability – to change routine and, consequently, Essence itself – stems from the pure Essence never exiled, while (because and besides the fact that it is rooted at the source) branching out to all things named.

Thus, “essentially”, both Shmos and Exodus are connected (Shmos however is a word of The Holy Tongue, and must therefore microcosmically encompass all of the Book Of Shmos, with no room for error on any level): by the Jews not changing their “names” to Egyptian ones (imagine Pharaoh Goldstein or Potifar Rosenberg), by their remaining true to their expression of self, by remaining pure not only internally but externally as well, the Exodus was brought about.

And today, every moment of our lives we strain against the bonds of Egypt (you think there’s a middle-eastern investment firm, Egyptian Bonds?), trying to bust out of the status quo so that we can take all things named and make them essential. That is the name of the game – tapping into your Essence so that you can hold on to your Name.

So… Hi, What’s your name?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so is it Jake, Jakey, or Mendel... ??? one name or many? multiple "essences" (! although multiple personalities) (can)not exist... so, manifestations of the single incomprehensible force that is You?
escapes definition or beyond definition?
your lack of name and consequental multiple names, is in itself a limitation.

1/18/2006 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Nothern Nudnik said...


In conclusion you equate "multiple names" with multiple essences, then wax (not-so) eloquent of "escaping beyond multiple limitations, in itself beyond definition"...

Give yourself a break, and learn to read!

(True, elsewhere Sh'mos (the Jewish name, that is) is said to refer to a person's essence, but it is only so when pitted against other "less-encopassing" adjectives, that a name is the most descriptive and all-encopassing.

However, here the point is the name versus the 'no-name'.)

Shabbat Shalom,

1/18/2006 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fine, but can you ever really name Essence?
(is Essence essential essence?)
[say that fast ten times]

and if you ever make it down from your Safed hills, Rabbi Shlass has much to say on this name thing.

1/18/2006 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake what is up with all the blood of late? Previously it was parents eating their children. Now it is whips!

U ok?

1/19/2006 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Trudging Soutward said...


Try focusing your lenses a bit more before snapping -- you might want to try commenting from a clearer picture.

And is it really worth trudging down the safedian hills, when after a morning in the Ari's Mikveh, I'll wind up with bunns of steel, in addition to daily balls of ice?

1/19/2006 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/23/2006 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/23/2006 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/23/2006 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear mendel,
"we're going all the way till the wheels fall off and burn"
red headed rascal

2/04/2006 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing is inspiring. As a random viewer I offer my praises for a special God given talent. Never stop sharing those simple words of truth.

2/28/2006 2:32 AM  

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