October 30th, 2008 1st day of Cheshvan, 5769 Issue # 44People often ask what made me convert a three-week visit to the United States into a life-changing immigration. One of the things that helped me decide to remain in the United States was that folks addressed one another respectfully, using names whenever possible.
I watched strangers putting their hands out and introducing themselves to one another by name. As I spoke at events around the country, I noticed the organizers making every effort to remember and use attendees’ names. Even employers called their employees by name rather than by job description like Cook or Gardener, which was common in the British Empire. The colonial, and slightly condescending, “My good man,” was noticeably absent too.
Why do we feel so flattered when a casual acquaintance or a boss remembers our name correctly and so annoyed when we are mistakenly called by a wrong one? We certainly would feel insulted to hear ourselves addressed as “Hey you."
Names are so important that an entire book out of the Five Books of Moses is called Names. That is right, the second of the five, known as Exodus in English, is really called the Book of Names in Hebrew—SHeMOT.
Considering that this book is really called Names, the following verses from the first few chapters of Exodus sound almost comical. No names are mentioned. In fact, God seems to go to great lengths to avoid mentioning anyone’s actual name.
And a new king arose over Egypt (Exodus 1:8)
The point is that slavery is as dehumanizing as not having a name. The book of Names opens with listing the names of Jacob’s sons who came to Egypt. They were free men. But their children were soon enslaved. Pharaoh’s daughter’s adoption of Moses elevates him from slavery and starts the road to redemption. Names become used again.
This opening of the Book of Exodus, or Names, with its curious absence of names, demonstrates this important equation:
slavery = no names
It is just as true to say that when you deprive people of names, you are creating circumstances of slavery. That is why giving people numbers instead of using their real names is part of a dehumanizing process.
no names = (leads to) slavery
using people’s names = (leads to) respect and social integrity
Though I have been an American citizen for many years, the lesson that people truly appreciate being addressed by name remains an important one. I am sure that you too have found that whether in your work or personal life, learning folks’ names and using them is always valued.
Edited by Susan Lapin
Thursday, October 30, 2008
at 12:09 AM
Cast of Characters
- BOB - Born of the body children
- BOTH - Born of the heart children
- Roran aka Big Girl - 18 year old BOB daughter - recently booted from the nest
- Big Boy - 15 year old BOB son
- Radical - 9 year old BOB son who fyi is not RAD
- Felpsy aka lil middle - 4 year old BOTH boy who is RAD and is the cumin in our soup
- Booger - 4 year old BOTH boy, sib to Felpsy, Twin to....
- Princess - 4 year old BOTH girl. Diva,