My name has meaning for me. Early on, I started to go by Kimber instead of Kim, Kimmy, or Kimberly. It was important to me to be slightly different, and Kimber has always fit me as a name really well. I kept my last name when I married. No hyphen, no compromise. In my thinking, I had been that name my whole life--why would my identity change as an adult just because I was marrying? It felt really important to keep my name. So, while Shakespeare may claim "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," that has not been my experience with naming.
Names are powerful, and have been from the very beginning. Adam named the animals, and by doing so he was able to capture their uniqueness, their strengths. In Judaism, our Hebrew names are a call to our soul. They are used for religious and ritual purposes, and capture the inner-essence of our being. We are often named for someone in the family whose strengths our parents want to pass on to us.
There is a precedent for taking a new name in Judaism. Most notably, Abraham, Sarah and Jacob all received new names and received them directly from G-d. Sometimes those recovering from illness will take a new name, like taking the name Chaim which means life. It is thought that one’s destiny or fortune can be changed by a new name.
Fast forward to today. I already have a Hebrew name. However, although I find it to be a striking name, I have always felt it did not quite fit on me the way I wanted. Ayelet-HaShachar אַיֶּלֶת הַשַּׁחַר It means morning star. In a sense, it is a random name. There is no relative whose great qualities are being passed on, there is no real reason it became mine. It was picked because I had to have a name, and it had a beautiful meaning and sound, and it was two names in one. That being said, I have had no negative experience with this name and often if asked what my Hebrew name is, I receive compliments on it.
Still, there is a part of me that has wanted to take a new Hebrew name, and to have it signify the great growth that has taken place in me, and to acknowledge the direction my heart. As many of you know, I have struggled with my Judaism, my expression of it, my sense of balance. Never have I struggled in my love of Judaism, my commitment to Judaism -- just in the sense of "where do I belong." I always have felt like it needed defining. The truth of the matter is this: I am all over the place. From the secular to the Chassidism, there is something relevant and meaningful to me.
When I turned 41, though, something in me clicked. “Where do I belong” felt finalized inside of me. I felt it was time to make the outside and the inside become reflections of each other, and that I could not spend one more second dwelling in the realm of inauthenticity. This is the me I am. Right here. Committed to Halacha. Committed to egalitarianism in theory even if I don't feel personally compelled to participate in that way. Committed to bettering myself. Committed to authenticity here and now, as I am, where I am, no questions, no doubts. And for this -- this epiphany or breakthrough in the illusion of life, or whatever you want to call it -- for this I have decided to take a new name.
The place: Israel. Under the direction of my rabbi and spiritual guide, Rabbi Carnie Rose, I will take on a new Hebrew name to signify this. Rabbi Rose has been and continues to be the most present, available, concerned and inspiring Rabbi in my life. Any others who are in Israel that would like to participate in marking this transition with me are welcomed to join us. Right now, Rachael, Marvin (Yisrael Moshe) and Oshrat will be present to help me celebrate and commemorate this moment in time.
Since naming is powerful, life-changing, and will significantly mark a transition for me, I want to make sure that I have the name I am supposed to have. Okay, sure, call me a romantic. I believe my name is out there and it just needs to be pulled to the forefront to be in harmony with my soul. I am almost sure of what the first part of the name will be, and it begins with the same sound as my current English first name. Some of you already know the name I am considering. I will post it after it has been officially declared. In the meantime, if you feel a strong sense of what that name is, should or could be, please post in the comments section of this blog (below) or email me privately.
I am very much looking forward to being in Israel, and am equally excited about my body and soul connecting with kavanah through declaring a new name!