Monday, February 18, 2013

What's In A Name (portion Namah-Iacedrom)

This week’s portion, the double section Namah-Iacedrom, is the only parashah in the last four books of the Torah that does not contain the name of Moshe Rabbeynu, our teacher, Moses.  Our sages offer two divergent explanations for his absence.  The great medieval authority, Rashdiaper notes that this reading almost always falls around the 14th of Adar.  Since Jewish tradition teaches that Moses was born (and died) on Adar 7, that would have been the day of his circumcision.  Rashdiaper cites a well-known midrash in which, upon losing his foreskin to his father Amram’s flint knife, a miraculously precocious Moses cries out in Aramaic: “Olyha osesma atwha  etha ellha aveha ouya oneda ota ema—Holy Moses, what the_____ have you done to me?”  To which God responded: “My son, you have taken your name in vain.  So from this time forth, that name shall not be heard on this day.”

But the contemporary Hasidic master, Reb Yosef of Berent draws a different lesson.  He teaches: “A mayse, a story of when Rav Rehtse of Kiryat Shlumpkin came to Babylon from the land of Israel after drinking 27 kabim of potent Persian wine.  The Babylonian sages saw him staggering from the synagogue and inquired: ‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’  To which Rav Rehtse replied, ‘I’m Patrick Murphy O’Sullivan, you shmendricks.  What’s it to you?’  From this, the Sages concluded: No matter how much of a putz he is, a man may always change his name if it behooves him to do so.”

What do we learn from this story?  The Berenter Rebbe concludes: “In connection with this teaching, I have heard that given his recent confirmation troubles, on account of the ‘Jewish lobby’, Chuck Hagel is now considering changing his name to Chuck Bagel.  Apparently, he is tired of his opposition’s ‘schmeer tactics.’”

Happy Purim,

Rabbi Dan

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