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What's In a Name

This week's Torah portion is called Shemot or names. The book of Shemot opens with names of the tribes and the families who went down to Egypt. From these seventy souls grew the Jewish nation. There were many birth pains along the way, especially the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt. Each person was independent and stands on their own, and yet each family is like a separate branch from which the Jewish nation, like a tree, is still growing today!

People like to name things to bring order to their world. In these chaotic times, we can bring some order to our uncertain world by naming-- naming what we are feeling, naming what we are experiencing, naming the sensations in our bodies.

A key aspect of mindfulness practice is noticing and observing without judgment what we are experiencing in the present moment or naming what we notice. This can put some distance between us and our thoughts and emotions. For example, naming emotions "fear" or "sadness" can allow us to acknowledge these feelings and perhaps lessen their impact. Allowing ourselves to acknowledge what we are feeling is important to our emotional well-being.

Even if we are not used to noticing and giving room to our sensations and feelings, now is a good time to try this practice. We have the ability not only to name our experiences but also to open ourselves up to new ones. We do not have to be locked into our perception of ourselves, or someone else's preconceived notions of who we are, which is connected to the name we are given. We are more than our given name. Our sages teach us that through our own choices and actions, each of us can name and rename ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom!

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