Jewish Journal

The Names We Give Ourselves

by Beit T'shuvah

December 20, 2013 | 11:06 am

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Hi, my name is Mark and I am an Alcoholic/Criminal in Recovery, a Rabbi, a son, a brother, a father, a husband, a friend, an uncle, a cousin, and a nephew. I am starting this blog in this way because we begin a new Book of the Torah this week, Shemot. This Book is called Exodus in English and the Hebrew, Shemot, translates as Names. This week, as I celebrate my 25th year of Sobriety and Living Well, I am thinking about the names I call myself as well as the names I am called. Not all of the names that I call myself, nor that I am called, are as nice/benign as those mentioned above. smiley

This has got me thinking about names. In the Jewish Tradition, we are taught that there are 3 crowns: the crowns of Priesthood, Royalty and Wealth; yet, the Crown of a Good Name exceeds them all. What name have we made for ourselves? I am in deep contemplation of this question and want to explore it more, so I am going to use some of the above names and some of the not nice names as well.

1) Alcoholic/criminal in Recovery—I/we am a person who strayed far from the path of decency and has returned to life with passion, purpose and staying power. I/we have changed from a me centered life to a we centered life. I/we keep a conscious contact with doing the next right thing and knowing we are imperfect. I/we live a life of transparency and live with paradoxes, no longer hiding from reality.
2) Rabbi—I am a teacher and leader. I am a learner and an arguer. I listen to the souls of others as well as my own soul. I live a life of principles and am unafraid to be seen in my entirety: flaws and warts, brilliance and truth.
3) Loud/obnoxious/angry—I get out of control when I feel threatened, sometimes. I get all of these things when I see evil happening and nothing is being done to stop it, in my opinion. I act out in these ways when I can't sit back and take a breath.
4) Hustler—I was a hustler for me and against you and God. In the last 25 years, I have changed my hustle—now I hustle for your soul and for God.
5) No Goodnik—I call myself this whenever I don't get it right. When someone relapses, I ask myself what could I/we have done better. I compare myself with others and always come up short. Even though I know this is wrong to do, I sometimes fall back into this old trap.
6) Baal T’Shuvah—A master of T’Shuvah. I/we admit when I/we am wrong, when I/we miss the mark and make a plan to repair the damage and not repeat the same exact error. I/we acknowledge that I/we am human and am grateful to God and others for my/our humanity.
7) Family member/friend—I/we hold God and others together in the same moment. I/we make sure that the interests of others become my concerns. I/we show up for others and allow others to rebuke, help and guide/teach us. I/we are unafraid to be seen and welcome intimacy and Truth. I/we are leaders in the cause of Human Rights and Human Needs. I/we live a life that answers the Question of God- "What good did life get out of you?" with a resounding "more good than negative!”

Jewish Tradition also says we have our given names and the names come from our deeds/actions. This is the name we make for ourselves. I am Addicted to Redemption because I want my name to be, most of all, MENSCH! I'm not there yet, just a work in progress. Please join me in this work!

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