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The Name of the Parsha
The word "Shemos" means "names," as in the verse, "These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt" (1:1).

A person's name is an extremely personal matter.
Whenever a person hears his name called out, the word resonates in his heart, and lifts his spirits. People feel so strongly for their names that they will pay fortunes to have their names written on buildings, as they yearn for their identity to be perpetuated in stone. In fact, a name is such a deep-rooted entity that, if a person faints (God forbid), whispering his name into his ear can actually bring him back to consciousness.

This is the inner significance of a name. Superficially however, a name does not express a person's unique essential qualities at all. In fact, many different people possess exactly the same name!

A name thus expresses somewhat of a paradox. On the surface, a name tells you nothing about a person. And yet, on probing deeper, it is a word that represents a person's total uniqueness.
 
And it is precisely for this reason - the paradoxical quality of a name - that this parsha is called "names." The paradox in our parsha is that we read here of a moment of gloom for the Jewish people. They descend into exile. They are enslaved. And when a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon, when Moshe comes to redeem the Jewish people, the immediate result is that things get worse.
And yet, on the other hand, the Midrash states that the key theme of our parsha is redemption! (Shemos Rabbah 1 :5)
 
But that is why the parsha is called "Names," for a name is also a paradox, precisely the same type of paradox which we witness in this parsha. For just like a name is, superficially, a concealment of a person's true identity - for so many other different people share the same name - and yet, deep down, a person feels that his name represents his total uniqueness; so too, parshas Shemos is superficially a concealment of the Jewish spirit, but deep down, that spirit always remains intact and alive.
(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Shemos 5746)
 

 


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