Seeing. Praising. Blessing.

This is a condensed version of the speech I gave at the Simchat Bat for our daughter Sarah Tehillah Berachah:

Sarah we chose because we liked the name and because we have collectively three great-grandmothers who shared that name. The name Tehillah came to my wife in a beautiful dream of redemption, months before Sarah was born. (we found out later it's verbatim straight out of Isaiah:60) And Berachah is my mother's first name. There is a lot of beautiful family history in the names and each one of our great grandmothers was extraordinarily special and I need to speak about them but this is not the place. Here I will speak about the divrei Torah I related to the names we chose.

There are three topics I've mentioned a number of times to people on seemingly endlessly appropriate occasions but they all bear strong relevance to our daughter and her names so I will recall them here.

  1. By the splitting of the sea, the accusing angels in heaven called Bnei Yisrael idol-worshippers. "How could that be?" Asks the Sfat Emet. They were believers and children of believers, they certainly did not worship idols in Egypt. However, because they believed that their slave labor was the result of their rulers' decrees, rather than the decree of heaven, they were considered to be idol-worshippers. Had they served out their sentence of slavery in the name of HaShem, because it was His Will that they do so, it would have been considered Holy service.
  2. The Midrash describes the tremendous prophetic revelation that took place by the splitting of the sea, a simple maid saw greater visions by the sea than Yehezkel (Ezekiel) saw in his great vision by the river. But what did they see? The Midrash states very clearly that by the splitting of the sea, HaShem appeared to the whole nation in prophetic vision as a young warrior. The text of The Song At The Sea corroborates this nicely, "HaShem Ish Milchamah." The Noam Elimelech, in two unrelated places in his books describes the event differently. "By the sea, they saw HaShem as a hoary grandfather full of kindness and compassion." How could this be? It is my belief that it was the tremendous level of the Noam Elimelech that gave him this elevated insight. (We are taught that in Rebbe Meir's Torah, by Adam and Chavah, instead of 'robes of leather,' it said 'robes of light.' (a one letter difference in the Hebrew) This was because Rebbe Meir's body was spiritually refined.) What others saw as war and judgement appeared to the Noam Elimelech in its true form of kindness and compassion.
  3. The Ten Commandments start with an acknowledgement "I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt." The first part of the passage, "I am the Lord your God," the Netivot Shalom explains, requires our unwavering belief in the one-ness of HaShem, that there is nothing beyond Him. The second half of the passage is interesting: "Who took you out of Egypt." Why not say, "Who created the world in six days?" What do we learn from the reminder that HaShem took us out of Egypt? The Netivot Shalom says this is the root of Bitachon, of unwavering trust in HaShem. Our sages teach that in Egypt we had sunken to the lowest level possible, the 49th gate of impurity. At our lowest point in our history, HaShem called us his beloved first-born and took us out of Egypt with great wonders and miracles. We must learn from here just how much HaShem loves us, that he showers us with blessings even when we are totally without merit. So we should never feel that God is inaccessible to us, His love for us is without bound. We must always trust in this, in His love for us.
Each of these three teachings truly echoes the lessons we want Sarah to embody with one of her names.
  1. Sarah, our Rabbis teach that her name comes from the root "shur" to see. Sarah saw with prophetic vision. May she have the eyes to see HaShem's kindness and compassion even when it might look like judgement, just as the Noam Elimelech saw HaShem by the splitting of the sea as a gentle grandfather.
  2. Tehillah, is a song of praise. May she always sing HaShem's praises for the kindness she always sees with her true vision. Just as Bnei Yisrael could have served in Egypt for the sake of HaShem's greatness, rather than to pacify the will of their opressors.
  3. Berachah, a blessing. May HaShem shower her always with blessings, as He does to each and every one of Bnei Yisrael because of His great love for us, whether we are living up to our potential or not. 
And all of these blessings and names reinforce and reinvigorate each other. The clearer the sight, the more praise, the greater the blessing, the more evident, the clearer the sight and so on.

But the biggest blessing that any person could receive is the blessing of appreciating all they have been given. We are surrounded by so much blessing, each of us, each day. The worst thing is to not be aware of it, to not appreciate it. When you say her name in order it means, "Sarah should be blessed" (שרה, תהי--לה ברבה) May she be blessed always to recognize just how blessed she is.

And may all of Israel, all of us, regardless of status, designation, or creed, be blessed with her. Because HaShem loves us all, without prejudice; more than we could begin to imagine. And may we merit to appreciate that.


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