Yitro, the man of many names. Yitro (in English, Jethro) had seven names: Re’uel, Yeter, Yitro, Chovov, Chever, Keini, Putiel. Revenue Canada might have had something to say about all those names!
Most of us have our English names and our Jewish names, but we may also have pet-names, or titles (Bubbe, Zeyde, Rabbi, Savta (Hebrew, grandmother), Sabba (Hebrew, grandfather), Shver (Yiddish, father-in-law) and Shvigger (Yiddish, mother-in-law). We may also be known to particular people with a particular name, perhaps from our childhood, or a time living in another country. Noah, our Bar Mitzvah this week, will be teaching us about who Yitro was, and how we deeply honour his memory. Yitro in many ways was the father of democracy! Yes, even back then, thousands of years ago, Yitro held an ideal that we utilize to this day.
I am often struck by the thoughtfulness and deep meaning of names chosen – either by parents of their newborn, by those who are choosing Judaism, or by those who want to add a name in honour of a meaningful time in their lives. We are guided, I believe, however imperceptibly, by the emanations of our names. We approach each other utilizing the name that seems best suited to the occasion and the relationship, and we are blessed to have these names. Yitro had 7 names – and God has 70! We can approach God with formality, with affection, with familiarity, in silence and in song. We have many, many options. May you find a name that comforts and inspires you.
May your name become you. May we all hold our collective name, Israel, in peace.
Rabbi Lynn (Rav Chanah Leah)