These Are the Names: Five Meditations for Parashat Shemot

1. Compassion

The daughter of Pharaoh went down to wash in the Nile, and her maidens walked along the shore of the river. She saw the basket in the reeds and sent her handmaid, who fetched it. She opened it and saw the child-a boy, crying — and she had pity on him and said: “This is one of the Hebrew children.”

Think of a moment when you, like Moses, were in need of compassion from someone else. Remember or imagine receiving compassion in that moment. Now, think of a moment when you, like Pharaoh’s daughter, experienced deep compassion and love for someone else. Return to that moment and bring the heart-movement of hesed, of lovingkindness, to the present.

Name: אל רחום וחנון

El Rahum ve-Hanun: Divine Compassion and Graciousness.

2. Wonder

An angel of YHWH appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush; he looked, and lo, the bush was burning with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Think of a moment when you experienced wonder or awe-when you saw or heard something that lifted you out of your ordinary life and touched your soul. It might even be a frightening occasion-or perhaps it is a moment of joy, or serenity. Return to that moment and feel the awe you felt. Take that awe into yourself and bring it into the present moment.

Name: נורא תהלות עשה פלא

Nora Tehilot Oseih Feleh: Wondrous in Praises, Performing Miracles.

3. Surprise

Moses said to God: “Now, when I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to you,’ and they say to me, “What is his/its name?’, what will I say to them?” God said to Moses: “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.”

Remember a moment when you were utterly surprised and delighted by something. Bring this surprise and delight into the present moment. Take it into yourself. The world has the ability to surprise us, and we have the power to surprise ourselves. God too can appear in ways we did not expect.

Name: אהיה אשר אהיה

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh: I Will Be What I Will Be.

4. Doubt

Moses replied and said: “What if they do not believe me and will not listen to my voice, but say: “YHWH did not appear to you!”? YHWH said to him: “What is that in your hand?” He said “A rod.” He said: “Throw it on the ground.” He threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and Moses ran away from it. Then YHWH said to Moses: “Put out your hand and take it by the tail.” He put out his hand and grabbed it, and it became a rod in his hand.”

Think of a moment when you doubted yourself, when you were certain you would fail. Think of a moment when you did not trust that you were enough. Remember, or imagine, God coming to you in that place. Remember, or imagine, the gifts you found in yourself at that time. Take into yourself the knowledge that facing what scares you can bring you to new possibilities. In the present moment, feel the Source guiding you toward the strength you need.

Name: סומך נופלים

Someikh Noflim: the One Who Supports the Falling.

5. Reunion

YHWH said to Aaron: “Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.” He went and met him at the mountain of God, and kissed him.

Remember a moment when you had a reunion — with God, with a person, or with a place. Remember what it was like to come together again after so long. Bring the love and longing you felt in that moment to the present. Take into yourself the possibility of reunion with the One in every moment.

Name: ידיד נפש

Yedid Nefesh, friend of the soul.

ואלה שמות

Ve-eileh Shemot: These are the names.

There are infinite names. Add as many as you need.

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