Honorable Mensch-ion


The Book of Exodus is primarily spent on the Israelites’ journey into slavery and the transformation of this tribe into a Jewish people with God’s revelation at Mount Sinai.

However, the book in Hebrew is called Shemot, which translates to “names.” While we can define a group in broad strokes and generalized characteristics, it is in fact each individual name that counts. When we speak about the six million lives lost during the Holocaust, we recognize the magnitude of destruction. Yet, when we begin to read about every child and adult that had their lives cut short, we recognize that each human being is a world unto itself. Each of us has a story to tell, a journey to take, a purpose on this earth.

The second book of the Torah begins, “And these are the names.” Seforno, the Italian commentator, explains that the ones mentioned here were deserving to be mentioned with their names. Each of them possessed sufficient individuality to give meaning to their names. Each was an inspiration to the generation to come.

We are often defined in relation to the other. I am my parent’s son, my children’s father, my wife’s husband, my friend’s friend, and my synagogue’s rabbi. And yet, Shemot reminds us to look inside and ask, “Who am in relation to myself?” Why should my name be mentioned? As our people head into slavery, it was difficult for the individual to see self-worth. Yet, even in the most trying times, when a person can see the value within themselves, it is only then, that we can become an am echad, one nation, under God.

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