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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Names Are Like Sweaters

As we change books and paths into Sefer Shemot, I feel the need to get the first parsha "right." I'm not sure that such a thing exists. As the Hebrews go from being an extended family, they descend into Egypt and time passes and somehow the Hebrews grow more and more despised, at least among the governing class. After establishing that we are talking about the same family as in Genesis, we begin with the story of our leader, Moshe. The remainder of the Torah will circle through rules, regulations, revolts and cataclysmic events. Through it all Moshe remains a constant.

The first words of Shemot are Ayloo Shemot, which translates to"these are the names." Names, are important in Tanach. We measure generations by them and ancestry and "yichus" are very important in figuring out who is an enemy, who is a friend and who is a leader.

Names are important; even now. It is something that all humans have in common, so I begin by writing about names. There will be a second post this week. Sorry for the number of posts, but I want to give this extra effort. It is worth it!

Names Are Like Sweaters

Names are liked sweaters

knit for us by our grandmothers.

By our grandfathers,

our mothers and fathers

or someone who has high hopes for us.

Sometimes our names hang loose on us,

waiting for us to grow into them.

Sometimes they are tight and constricting.

We must wear them anyway


what choice do we have?

Sometimes our names are knit with yarn

that scratches and itches.

It makes us so uncomfortable that we want to change it.

Sometimes the same name is knit into

generation after generation.

We spend our lives trying to live up to others

who wore

that same sweater.

Sometimes our names are knit from colorful yarns

and we are just shades of gray

We need to learn to live with the colors

or sometimes we want to jump and dance

and be as flashy as lightening on a summer night

and our name is gray and mousy.


in fact many times,

when we look carefully at the weft,

we find mistakes…

tiny inconsistencies,

slips of the needles.

A sign of a daydreaming grandmother.

We feel so good because no one’s names can be perfect,

can they?


many times indeed,

our names are knit just right.

The stitches are even and perfectly knit.

Our name fits us beautifully.

The colors match who we are,

The weave follows our rhythm.

And our name fits smooth,

like a glove,

no, like a sweater,

as though it was always meant to be that way.

The names fit because they are a match


the knitter,

the yarn and recipient.

The golden triangle.

Can that sweater hold history?



The hope of the generations?

Maybe so.

Most of us learn to live with our names.

Eventually we grow into them.

Wear them with the honor they deserve,

for after all,

we have no other.

They are ours.

Sweaters hand knitted by Kathi Wolff. Thank you, Kathi!

Sweaters hand knitted by Kathi Wolff. Thank you, Kathi!

וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה אֵ֣ת יַעֲקֹ֔ב אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵית֖וֹ בָּֽאוּ׃

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each coming with his household:

Exodus 1:1 (Translation from Sefaria)


Other poems on Parshat Shemot on Words Have Wings Four Women and a Girl Who Saved the World


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