Day 37: Your Two Names

One of the most haunting passages in the liturgy that we read on Rosh Hashana as well as Yom Kippur is the prayer, Unesaneh Tokef the holy prayer composed by Rabbi Ammon of Mainz. We read: Let us relate the force of this day’s holiness for it is awesome and terrifying. All mankind before you G-d like Bnai Maron. As a shepherd examines his flock, passing each sheep beneath his rod. So do you pass and count and enumerate every living soul.

This concept of the Jewish people as Bnai Maron is taken from oral tradition. It is a metaphor that is used by Rabbi Judah the Prince, to express the essence of judgment on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. What is the significance of this mysterious term?

Bnai Maron symbolizes the steps up the mountainous cliffs at Maron where only one individual could traverse at a time. The call of Ayeka –where are you?

Adam and Eve were not only ones to whom G-d called. In the Bible, G-d calls Abraham for the ultimate act of commitment , the binding of his son Isaac. In Exodus, G-d calls Moses at the Burning Bush to accept the mission of redeeming the Jewish People.

In each case, G-d calls their name twice; Abraham, Abraham, Moshe, Moshe. In each one Abraham and Moshe answer Hineni – Here I am! Why the double language? Could Abraham or Moshe not hear G-d’s call the first time?

Jewish mysticism offers a powerful answer. Each human being posses two names. One name given to us at a baby naming or a bris reflects Divine inspiration and represents our unique potential in the world. The other name signifies the reality of who I am today.

G-d calls each name twice. Does your name below (as you are today) meet your name above (as you should be?) Are you maximizing your unique potential? For Abraham and Moshe-the moment of the binding of Isaac and the encounter at the Bush signifies a peak moment of connection to their purpose.

On Yom Kippur, G-d is calling each of us. Are we maximizing our potential? Do we harness our unique talent and gifts to elevate the world? When we hear our Hebrew name, whether an Aliya, under a Chuppah, during a Mishebarach, or where someone calls us in need, it is G-d’s way of calling us to realize our potential.

Our Hebrew name, given to us by our parents, is our destiny.

Our name reflects the essence of not only who we are but who we are meant to be. Our names are our identity and represent our unique contribution to the world.

In G-d’s eyes, every every human being has a mission that cannot be accomplished by anyone else. Do we hear that call? Do we strive to grow every day?

Rocky Marciano was once asked to explain the secret to his legendary streak of undeleted victories in the ring. He responded, “I was hungry, always hungry.” He who rests, rusts. Are we living life to the fullest? Are we just going with the flow or taking charge of our lives?

The Chazon Ish, the great sage of the 20th century, explained the secret of growth when he observed that the noticeable difference between a live and dead fish is that only a live fish can swim upstream. Only a live fish can swim against the tide.

An ancient Jewish tradition teaches that the first question G-d asks at the end of our lives is “What is your Hebrew name?” What G-d is really asking is, “ Did we do the best we could in this world to live up to our name?”

G-d is calling Ayeka! Where are you? Where are you?

This Yom Kippur, we must answer: Hinei: Here I am!

With blessings,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

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