D’var Torah – Lech Lecha: A Good Name

Toward the end of this week’s parashah, Lech Lecha, God makes a covenant with Avram and changes his name to Avraham. And slightly later in the text, God instructs Avraham to call his wife Sarah, and no longer Sarai. This covenant – God’s promise that Avraham and Sarah will be the father and mother of a great nation – is marked in a significant way.  Although God does not name every being, even today, the giving of a name is a momentous event. As Jews, we celebrate a child entering the covenant of the Jewish people with the giving of his/her name, as part of a baby boy’s brit milah celebration and, in many communities, at a girl’s simchat or zeved bat.

I have often thought that a name is like a blank slate waiting to be written.  For an infant, it may have a family connection or was chosen fondly by a parent.  But over time, each of our names comes to represent the values we stand for, what kind of person we are, and our role in the larger community.

In Proverbs we learn that “a good name is preferable to great riches.”  And Pirke Avot teaches that “there are three crowns – the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty, but the crown of a good name surpasses them all.”  As a parent, I think often about the names that my children are creating for themselves. I hope their names will embody many of the middot (values) we have taught them, but it will also reflect who each of them is as an individual. Similarly, our job as camp professionals is to guide our campers and tzevet to embrace the positive attributes that will make each one of their names great.  We look forward to continuing that partnership in the coming year and to creating a community of great names.