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Devar Torah - Shemos

Friday, 5 January, 2018 - 3:24 am

The Secret Power of a Jewish Name
By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This week we begin the second sefer of the Torah, Shemos. Shemos  means "Names," because through the events chronicled in this book, the Jewish people and each individual Jew receive their "name," their essential national and personal identities as Jews.

While in the midst of exile, galus, the neshama is hidden along with its ability to perceive G-dliness and how everything comes from and is orchestrated under Hashem’s sovereignty. With this loss of insight also comes the hiding of the neshama’s love and fear of Hashem. In the galus all that is apparent are external appearances. In this state it’s hard to tell apart the life of a Jew from the lifestyles of non Jews (as the Medrash says at Krias Yam Suf: “These served avodah zarah and these served avodah zarah”).

One of the remedies for this concealed state of spiritual slumber is to call the neshama by it’s name. This awakens the essence of the neshama. Chassidim relate in the name of R. Pinchas of Koritz that this is the reason the first name of the Baal Shem Tov is Yisroel, because his mission on earth was to awaken the essence of each and every Jew.

In the parsha we witness the descent of Yaakov's family into progressively more severe physical exile, we can read between the lines and discern their descent into greater and deeper spiritual exile.

As the spiritual and physical exiles both intensified, the Jews were forced to confront their essential identity. The fact that they refused to give up the external trappings of their names, their language and their way of dress, which appear to be  only superficial small and seemingly unimportant  matters, indicated that they still maintained their  inner seed of faith in their essence and their destiny.

Therefore  the first parsha which describes the galus, the spiritual descent the Jewish people underwent and the horrors of their enslavement, is also called Shemos, "Names," to emphasize that the Jew's essence is beyond exile.

With Chof-Daled Teves, the Yartzeit of the Alter Rebbe approaching we are reminded that we are called upon to not only embrace our essence and stay true to it but also bring the neshama’s essential oneness with Hashem down into intellect and emotion. This is the stated purpose of the Tanya, which is described on its front page  as a likut,  a collection of different Torah sources gathered  to explain how it is close to each and every neshama to bring the service of Hashem into one’s mouth and heart to do; to accomplish.

It is for this reason that we beg and even demand the geula. We want the revelation of the essence of every Jew and how the neshama is one essence with Hashem, which is itself the Geula. It was always there, it was only hidden. May we witness the complete revelation for all to see immediately.

A Good Shabbos

(Adapted from the Sicha of Shabbos parshas Shemos 5748-1988)

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