Have you ever wondered whether the name that your parents gave you at birth has anything to do with your personality? Whether your name is an expression of your inner self rather than just a useful way for people to call out to you at school and at home?
As a matter of fact, this Parsha is called Shmos, meaning names. Parshios get their names from one of the words in the first sentence or two of the Parsha. The beginning of Shmos lists all of the descendants of Yaakov that went down to Egypt, introducing the subject with the words “ואלה שמות בני ישראל,” and that’s how Parshas Shmos got its name. However, when you take a deeper look into the Chumash, you notice that all of the ten Shevatim who were listed by name here in this Parsha were already mentioned in many other Parshios. Why, then, does Hashem repeat their names here? In a similar vein, why is the whole Sefer called Shmos– “names”– if this part of the Chumash seems to be redundant?
A beautiful explanation for the above mentioned questions is brought down by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He said that by listing the names, Hashem is trying to show each of us that we are extremely precious to Him. The names that our parents give us at birth are considered a form of prophecy, a message from Heaven about our unique souls. Just as Hashem names each of the stars in the heavens*, He names each of us Jews individually to show his connection to us. Just as you know and recognize those who you love, calling them by name, so too Hashem is trying to show his love for us by listing the names in the Parsha. Just like the stars go into exile from daybreak when they cannot be seen until nightfall the Jewish people have gone into exile. And just like Hashem calls the stars by name, He calls the Jewish people by name, lovingly, as they went into exile in Egypt.
Although the full strength of the fire of Hashem is concealed during Galus, there is a flame within every Jewish soul that will remain forever pure. With this spark of purity, we are motivated to fulfill our special mission in this world. This small spark of G-dliness also inspires us to hold on to our identity as Jews and pull away from sin. Hashem calls all Jewish souls by name, the Jewish name that our parents gave us at birth (or that we adopt later), showing that we have our own individual purpose in creation, our unique mission to accomplish. You have your own approach to Torah and your own way of being a lamplighter, represented by your own individual Jewish name.
This is the reason why this Parsha, talking about the Jewish people’s first and hardest exile, mentions the names of the tribes again. Knowing that He cares about each of us as individuals gives us strength even in this hard exile. Hashem wants to remind us that we have our own mission that nobody else has the power to accomplish. Your Jewish name gives you power and is a reminder of the constant love that Hashem feels for you even during Galus. Hashem loves and treasures you and names you like the huge, bright and beautiful stars. Your essence is beyond Galus and you have the power to bring the Geula.
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