From the Desk - Naming Children after Living Relatives
Shalom Friends! I hope that you and your families are well! The Winter We’ve reached mid-December and I still claim that Montreal weather is beautiful and refreshing! I know, you’re going to say we haven’t had the worst of it yet…. There’s only so long you can say that for so I will reserve judgement and we can talk about it in April. All this enjoyment of the Winter, though, is predicated on the privilege of having a home we can live in which we can afford to keep warm. The experience must be terrible for those who can’t find shelter and have to sleep outside. There is a blessing that is said every morning (Artscroll prayer book, p.18): ‘Blessed are you, G-d, Who clothes the naked.’ Our Sages realised that the comfort we experience when we put on our clothes is so often taken for granted and they sought to correct this by formulating a blessing in which we praise G-d for providing us with the clothes we need. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik noted that the purpose of many of the morning blessings is not only to appreciate what we have but also to inspire us to emulate Hashem’s kindness. As the Sages taught, ‘Just as G-d clothes the naked, so you too must clothe the naked.’ If you ask how G-d clothes the destitute and gives them shelter today, the response is: through us, through inspiring us to make the world less indifferent and safer and kinder for those most dispossessed in our society. This is an idle wish only if we decide to ignore it. There are many opportunities to give. In our parking lot, we have a large yellow container in which you can deposit blankets and clothes. These are taken by MADA and distributed to those who need. We should also consider donating to soup kitchens in Israel, on which thousands depend and to World Jewish Relief which helps our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe survive the bitter winter. Each one of us has the ongoing mitzvah of giving 10 percent of what we earn as well as a portion of our time towards mitigating the suffering of others. Righteous Gentiles This Shabbat, we begin reading the story of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt. Tragically, we know that Pharaoh was not the last ruler to inflict pain and suffering on our people and that, in ways, his evil philosophy is a template for many instances of institutionalised Antisemitism throughout the ages. But what is also true is that, amidst that evil, there were people from within the oppressive societies who stood up for what was right. In his book, ‘In Ishmael’s House’, the late Martin Gilbert details the plight of Jews in Muslim lands over the past few hundred years. In his introduction, he notes that there were always those among the nations who protected Jews from the rampant Antisemitism around them. And he says that this can be traced back to this week’s sidra in which Egyptian midwives disobeyed Pharaoh and refused to murder Jewish baby boys. Now, in actual fact, the Torah refers to these midwives as meyaldot ha’ivriyot which most commentators understand to mean Hebrew midwives. However, one important commentator, the Abravanel, explains that the term means ‘the midwives of the Hebrews’ and that the women were indeed Egyptian. Either way, we also read this week about the daughter of Pharaoh who completely contradicted her father’s decree by saving Moses and even arranging for him to be brought up in a Hebrew household. Want to know more about Pharaoh’s daughter? You can watch Rebbetzen Carly talk about her, 7 minutes and 25 seconds into this video. I think that one of the important lessons for us today is that we realise that there are good people from every society. Even in those societies which are plagued by moral corruption and dangerous theological ideas there are those whose natural moral instinct and fear of G-d guides them toward moral goodness and, sometimes, moral heroism. Whilst we must never be naive about our enemies evil intentions, it is a travesty and a tragedy when we tarnish all people of a particular faith or ethnic grouping with the same brush. In this vein, I would recommend this interview with Ahmed Khalifa who, a few weeks ago, courageously pursued and helped arrest the attacker of a Jewish woman on a New York subway. Vilna Cemetery Here in Beth Ora, we have many members who were born in different countries and have a strong sense of connection to the Jewish people of previous generations. Indeed, we have spoken several times about the importance of maintaining our bond with those generations who are no longer with us physically but whose legacy we preserve and perpetuate, individually and communally. In this regard, I want to draw your attention to the Lithuanian government’s plans to build a new convention centre over the Old Jewish Cemetery of Vilna. The remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jews are still buried in the cemetery, including the remains of some of the greatest rabbis, Jewish martyrs and pious women through the centuries. There is an online petition that simply asks that the convention centre be built at a different location in Vilnius – which can easily be done. It is imperative that we get as many signatures as possible on the petition in order to signal to the Lithuanian government that we care about and value our forebears. If we get enough signatures, the political authorities will have little choice but to take the petition into account before making any hasty decision. All one needs to do is to click on this link, fill out the electronic form, and electronically sign your name. Please forward to others, so that they too can participate in this mitzvah. Welcoming Our New Members We are delighted to welcome four new member families to Beth Ora! Welcome to Debra and Eric Purcell, Michelle Hartman, Sonia and Alain Attias, Jasmine Ghoddoussi and all your families! We are so excited to welcome you to the Beth Ora family and look forward to getting to know you better! Last Week in Synagogue… Last week in synagogue, I talked about the fact that Jacob gave a specific blessing to each of his sons rather than one generic blessing. This emphasises the importance of recognising our individual potentials. Each one of us has a particular combination of character traits, passions and opportunities which we can and must use to make our impact on the world. You can read more about this idea here. This Week in Synagogue… This week, we are very excited to announce the premiere of the Beth Ora Youth Choir. This is a wonderful development for our community and we extend a big yasher koach to Rabbi Heshy Benshimon, Eric Dym and, of course, to the children for their hard work and wonderful results! Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with...Sephardi Jews naming children after living relatives and Ashkenazi Jews not doing so? This week’s question was asked by the ladies of Lunch N’ Learn. The first thing to note is that the Bible and Talmud do not contain any prohibition against naming a child after living relatives. Indeed, the Rebbe of Chabad noted, based on verses in Genesis, that Terach (father of Abraham) named his son ‘Nachor’ during the lifetime of his father who had the same name. Moreover, the Talmud records that child was named after Rabbi Natan while he was still alive. In Ashkenazic Europe, the custom developed to refrain from naming children with the names of living people. There are a number of reasons suggested for this. One is that it is common custom to name a child after parents or grandparents who are no longer alive. This keeps the name and memory alive and forms a bond between the soul of the baby and the deceased relative. The child can also be inspired by the good qualities of the deceased and forge a deep connection with the past. Some sources indicate that there is a concern that naming a baby after a living person gives the impression that one wishes they were dead! A second reason is that, according to Jewish law, it is not deemed proper respect to call one’s parent by his/her first name. Some say that, when in the presence of a parent, you shouldn’t use that parent’s name even to refer to somebody else. For example, if your mother’s name is Rebecca, you shouldn’t refer to your friend – who is also Rebecca – by name in front of your mother. There is a concern that naming our children after our living parents would cause a lot of problems in this regard! So much for the Ashkenazim. But what about the Sephardim? Well, they simply never adopted any such custom. They follow the original tradition wherein it was totally permitted to name children after living people. Indeed, they deem this a form of giving honor to living relatives.