Friday, November 30, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Rebecca Gatz on Vayishlach

Shabbat Shalom!

My name is Rebecca.  But I guess you already knew that.  But you probably didn’t know that my name is also Becca, Becs, Becky, Rebecker, Bepa, Beckieboo, and of course, Goobie.  And then there’s my middle name, Ilene.

I like some of these names more than others, but each name tells something unique about who I am.  For example, my nickname Bepa was created because my sister could not pronounce Rebecca when she was young. So she called me “Bepa.”  As for the ever popular Beckieboo, well, I had given a funny nickname to a friend of mine and Beckieboo was her way of gaining revenge. So those names are about special relationships I have with certain people at certain times in their lives and in mine.

 My names also tell about my ancestry. Rebecca is for my great grandma Becky, short for Rebecca and Ilene is for great grandpa Irwin, also known as Sugar.  In having their names, I also hope to have some of their great qualities. Great Grandma Becky was known to be very optimistic, even when times were hard.  And great grandpa Sugar was known for his kindness, and his sweet tooth.  I’ve definitely inherited that quality, especially when it comes to peanut butter ice cream!

My name also connects me to Jewish history.  Rebecca in the Torah is very kind and cares about her family.  She also had to be strong enough to take care of twins and referee their disputes.

A name can also describe someone’s accomplishments - like doctor or rabbi.  And then there’s my last name -Gatz- which is a short form of an old personal name formed with the same root as the German word “gate” which means ‘companion’.

In my portion- Vayishlach- Jacob’s name changes to Israel when he wrestles with the angel.  He said to the angel “I’m not going to let you go until you bless me.” And the angel said, from this point on, your name will be “Israel,” because you have striven with beings divine and human and you have prevailed.”  So the name Israel basically means someone who wrestles with God.  I feel that it’s natural in a religion to a lot of questioning – or wrestling with questions.  It’s part of being a Jew.

By the way, the word “Jew” comes from the Hebrew word “Yehudah” which is a form of thank you.  So while to be part of Israel means to wrestle with God, to be a Jew also means to be grateful for all we have.  That’s perfect for this Thanksgiving weekend.

As someone who loves to read, I know that many of my favorite books also have important name changes or nicknames as part of the plot.  In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss Everdeen is the “Girl on Fire.”   In Harry Potter, Harry is known as the “Boy who lived.” And in my new favorite book, “Divergent,” the main character makes a huge change in her life and switches her name from Beatirce to ‘Tris. 

A name means that you are human and connected to other people, to your family and your history.  When that name changes, it signals that your life or personality has changed to – and that you’ve passed a new stage of growth. 

Today, I proudly announce that I have a new name – a new title, in fact, and it’s called “Bat Mitzvah.”

And now that I am a bat mitzvah, I understand that I have new responsibilities to care for others and help repair the world.  For my mitzvah project, I walked to raise almost $1,700 for the Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital.  I also collected books for children ages 3-12 who have cancer and will be donating them to Stamford Hospital.  If you would like to still contribute, you can contact me.

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