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Thursday, 16 July 2015

They kept their Jewish names

Daf Yomi Nedarim 53

Today's Life Yomi is dedicated in memory of HaRav Yitzchak ben HaRav Chaim Yaakov z"l by his granddaughter, on the occasion of his yahrzeit.

Americans who make aliyah will often retain their Anglo identity for years.  One of the classic ways to spot an American immigrant is how he buys his milk.  Israelis drink their milk out of a bag.  Not literally out of the bag.  But you buy the milk bag and then place it in a special milk jug called a chalavator.  If you don’t have a chalavator handy, you make do with a negel vasser kvort (handwashing cup).

But after a while, even the toughest Yankee will become absorbed into Israeli life.  Not so the other way around.  An Israeli who moves to America or anywhere else in the world will forever remain an Israeli.   Ask any of them about their plans for the future and they’ll assure you that they’re just visiting and plan to return to Israel very soon.  My father-in-law, bless him, left Israel as a young child.  He’s pushing eighty ka"h and still claims he’s Israeli and only a tourist in New York. . .  (I know what you’re thinking: yes, he does keep two days Yom Tov!)

If one vowed to abstain from dates, he is allowed date-honey; from winter grapes, he is allowed winter-grape vinegar. 
Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira says: Any item that bears the name of origin that one vowed to abstain from, one is forbidden from that derivative item.  But the Sages permit.
The Rosh explains: As long as it bears the original name, even though it has dramatically changed in its consistency, like date-honey from dates.

The fact that an Israeli insists on being known as an Israeli decades after their emigration is incredibly heartwarming and promising.  According to Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira, as long as you bear your original name, it doesn’t matter how far you’ve strayed from the source, you maintain your original status.  If an Israeli has lived abroad for many years and still insists on their Israeli identity, it means that they feel their essence has not changed.  These are pure souls who live by the dictum of Rabbi Yehuda Halevy, “My heart is in the east!”

Similarly, of the five million Jews in America, how many of them are practising?  And yet they continue to call themselves Jews!  They don’t have to; on the contrary, given the rise of global anti-Semitism, why would they?  But they choose to.  That means they still identify.  And that means that we must never give up on their return to Jewish life. 

Don’t ever stop reaching out to your Jewish brothers and sisters!  Don’t ever cease praying for their physical and spiritual welfare!  They maintain their original names, which means they care!  And so should we!

Names mean a lot.  How we identify ourselves is reflective of how we think of ourselves.  As long as people maintain their original names, they still feel a part of where they’ve come from.  May you merit reaching out to our brothers and sisters who may be so far from Jewish life that they are Jews in name alone!