Monday, December 01, 2008

Question & Answer With Rabbi Micha Golshevsky - Sharing The Same Name

(Picture by L. Grey)

A Simple Jew asks:

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said, "Do not wonder how a name can contain the secret of a person's existence when so many share the same name. It is an error to question this."

I certainly would never consider questioning the validity of this teaching from Rebbe Nachman. I would, however, like to understand it better. Could you elaborate a bit further on this general topic and the issue Rebbe Nachman raised in particular?

Rabbi Micha Golshevsky answers:

First of all, the Ramaz writes that ones' name is his neshamah.

Chazal tell us that when Hashem told the angels to give names to the animals they could not, but when Adam received this task he immediately assigned names to them all.

The Chidah asks the obvious question: why couldn't the angels name the animals?

He explains: one's name contains his mission and ability to choose good or bad. This explains why Chazal sometimes teach a person's good or bad deeds from his name.

We can extrapolate a little of what this means from the Zohar Hakadosh which teaches that the letters of the holy Torah are from the loftiest spheres and emanate from the Boundless Light of Hashem as it were. We cannot fathom even a fraction of the greatness of even one letter of Torah or tefilah.

But what does this really mean?

Rav Ya'akov Abuchatzeira compares the letters of the Torah to a body and soul. Just as one's soul can only interact with the material world through the physical vehicle of his body, the boundless Supernal lights imbued in the letters of Torah can only be accessed in this world through the physical forms of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is only through these forms that these illuminations interact with our physical world.

Just as even twins may have a very different spiritual nature (like Ya'akov and Eisav for example.) the same letter can sometimes access different spheres of the supernal light it reveals. Even identical twins can take very different paths in life. One may be spiritually upwardly mobile while the other may be in a very low spiritual slump.

So there is your answer: Each letter of our name represents a lot of potential — for good or for bad. What we do with it is up to us.

I was once interviewed by a fairly prominent Talmud Chacham, also a great mekubal, for entry into his kollel. While I was speaking with him, a clean shaven young man with furrowed brow, (presumably his son) approached.

"What's on your mind?" the Rosh Kollel asked.

"What in the world is behind the custom of saying a pasuk the first letters of which make up one's name before yihiyu liratzon in shemonah esrei?"

The Rosh Kollel mentioned an earlier source for this custom but the young man was obviously not satisfied. "Yes, but why does this practice enable one to 'remember' his name after he dies? And, why does remembering his name make his judgment any easier, for that matter?"

The elderly man shrugged. He clearly had no idea.

Although I knew nothing about kabbalah and was not in this erudite scholar's league, I knew the answer to his sons question. You see, I had learned through a little sefer called Meshivas Nefesh which explains this issue in great depth.

Rav Nosson writes there that one's name refers to his potential for good. One who "forgets his name" is a person who has forgotten his potential for good in the world. One who "remembers his name" knows that Hashem takes pride in every Jew as long as he feels proud to be a Jew, no matter what his spiritual level (as Rebbe Nachman writes.)

This is the meaning of a dead man "forgetting his name." He is so disconnected from the good within that he doesn't connect to it. He cannot yet access the good that he has done, although this is his true essence.

One who reminds himself of his name at frequent intervals can easily return to Hashem since he is proud of his intrinsic connection with Hashem as one of the chosen nation.

Now we can understand why we recite a verse at the end of each shemonah esrei before yehiyu liratzon. Mentioning a verse in Tanach which alludes to our name and our mission in this world, we recall that every Jewish soul is rooted in the boundless lights symbolized by each and every letter of the Torah.

Hashem should help us always truly recall our name and reconnect to our intrinsic worth. Let us remember that we are important and beloved to our Heavenly Father; no matter what!


At December 1, 2008 at 5:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday ASJ, hope you have a great day :)

At December 1, 2008 at 6:18:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you for remembering!

At December 1, 2008 at 10:22:00 AM EST, Blogger Yosef said...

I have had the following question for the longest time- All of the drushim on the letters found in the Zohar, etc., are all based on Ksav Ashuris. The forms of the letters in this ksav (which we use today) have tremendous significance. But why then was the Torah actually originally given in a different script? And why don't we learn more about the letters that were used originally? Why did it change? What is the significance of this? We see that the letters of ksav Ashuri are darshened in awesome ways referring to Ma'aseh Breishis... does anyone know more about this?

At December 1, 2008 at 10:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yosef: Who told you the Torah was not given in kesav ashuris?
I quote from Igros Moshe Yoreh De'yah III, teshuva #120: "...Since the Torah was given in kesav ashuri and the ten commandments were written in it..."

At December 1, 2008 at 11:21:00 AM EST, Blogger Yosef said...

I was under the impression that it was given in Ksav Ivri. I know that most of the writing from the times of King David, etc., that's been found has all been in that ksav. I had never heard of that Igros Moshe though. I do know that at some point there was a changeover to Ksav Ashuri in general. Why do you think this took place? What was the hevdel in Kvas before it became Ashuri for everything?

At December 1, 2008 at 11:58:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mazal tov ASJ! And wonderful interview. Rav Golshevsky always provides much to contemplate.


At December 1, 2008 at 12:24:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hasefardi: Thank you for the kind encouragement; it is very appreciated.
ASJ: Mazel tov. It comes out of the Likutei Halachos that each year Hashem reveals a new level of chessed that was previously hidden. If we didn't manage to fulfill our goals until now, we are given even more kindness to attain our spiritual yearnings. Hashem should help you attain your lofty spiritual goals!
Yosef: We hold like Rebbe in the Yerushalmi (in Megillah first perek halacha #9).
The Yerushalmi there explains that although the Torah was given in ashuris, they were caused to forgot this holy manner of writing after they sinned. It is only in the time of Ezra that their teshuvah was accepted and kesav ashuris was restored to them. (See also the Yerushalmi's proof that Torah was given in ashuris.)

At December 1, 2008 at 12:32:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I should clarify that today is my birthday on the regular calendar. My birthday on the Jewish calendar is the 25th of Kislev.

At December 1, 2008 at 12:46:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue of Ksav Ashuris and Ksav Ivris is discussed by Maharal miProg in great depth. (Recently a seyfer was published on this subject).

Regarding the name, Reb Menachem Mendl Vitebsker ztz"l gives a similar insight in "Pri Hooretz" to what Reb Noson says in Likutey Halochoys. He however adds one important detail.

He says, that every person has two kind of names. His name in kdusho, and his name in klipo. One's actions define which name is "active" so to say.

After person's death, he literally becomes "the name". And alas, if one becomes the name which is from the klipo. He is that name! So it is it as if he forgot the other one.

At December 1, 2008 at 12:57:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASJ: What a wonderful birthday! Although the main thing is the Hebrew date, The English date also has significance...
Bahaltener: Correct. What you wrote is clear from the Chidah I brought in the post: "He explains: one's name contains his mission and ability to choose good or bad. This explains why Chazal sometimes teach a person's good or bad deeds from his name."
So it is the exact same name but with a very different pnimiyus.
Hashem should help us fulfill our mission by using our potential to the hilt from now on!

At December 1, 2008 at 2:55:00 PM EST, Blogger Yosef said...

Thank you Rabbi Golshevsky and Bahaltener for your informative responses! Bahaltener, where would I find this discussed in the writings of the Maharal?

At December 1, 2008 at 3:45:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yosef: My pleasure.
I don't own the sefer bahaltener mentioned but I know the Maharal discusses this in Chidushey Aggados on Sanhedrin 21b and Tiferes Yisrael Chapter 64.
Truth is that Rebbe is not only brought in the Yerushalmi but in Bavli Sanhedrin 22a as well(Forgot to include it since the proof I was referring to is in Yerushalmi.) The Maharal concludes both pieces explaining Rebbe's de'eyah.
My understanding has always been that we hold l'ma'aseh like Rebbe.

At December 1, 2008 at 10:17:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My birthday is 25 Kislev too! It's an honor to share at least one of your birthdays.

At December 2, 2008 at 2:27:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

G-d bless you and yours.
May you have many more happy returns of the day and may each moment of each day of yours and your family's life go only according to Hashem's Will.
Thanks for the interview with RMicha. blessings.


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