When Language Carries Our Names

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Image Description: Words of the Torah in Hebrew text.

From my vantage point, looking at a screen as I sat at my dining room table, names emerged within the Zoom chat window. But I had not read them yet with my eyes.

Instead, gathered virtually with the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, I listened to my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Rob Dobrusin, pray in Hebrew. The sounds flowed meaningfully, though most of the words were unknown to me. Here and there, I would hear, Adonai, a name for God. In a language unknown to me, definitions, grammar, and syntax all fell away. Instead, I heard spoken, melodic sounds.

Then I began to hear our names.

In the midst of words I didn’t understand, I opened my eyes suddenly and looked up at the screen in recognition when the name of another colleague alerted me to understanding. This language of prayer was carrying names. Then I began to hear more names interspersed within these sounds. Then I heard the names of the people I had placed in that chat window.

I felt language itself lifting us up, knowing that our words are intentions, knowing that our melodic speaking is often filled with love for people.

Renee Roederer

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