Importance Of Names

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To learn that each name has a meaning

To learn about the life of Rabbi Akiva

To think about what names say about a Person and why we are called Bnei Akiva

Matériel requis

For the treasure, prepare clues having to do with Rabbi Akiva.

Contenu de la ressource

Parshat Vayetze

The Importance of Names

In this weeks sedra we see so many cool events occurring. These range from the famous dream Yaakov has about a ladder standing on the ground and reaching up to heaven, with melachim (angels) going up and coming down. This was where Hashem promised him a great nation and descendants and the Land, as He had promised his father and grandfather. Yaakov awoke realizing that hed been sleeping in a highly holy place, so he changed the name of the place to Beit El (house of G-d). He also vowed that if Hashem would protect him on his journey and support him with food, drink and clothes, Yaakov would dedicate himself totally to G-d.

In the middle of this weeks parsha, Yaakov met Rachel and they had a chat and then Rachel took Yaakov home to meet Lavan, where he was also introduced to Rachels big sister, Leah. Lavan invited Yaakov to stay, and he began working for him. Lavan offered to pay him, but Yaakov had fallen in love with Rachel, so he offered to work for 7 years for her. At the end of the 7 years Yaakov was ready to marry her, but Lava tricked him and gave him Leah instead. Yaakov was annoyed, so after a week he also married Rachel (but than had to work for her for another 7 years). Hashem saw that Leah was unloved and blessed them with children and she became pregnant. However Rachel was still barren

In this weeks meeting, we are going to look at the idea of names and what actually Bnei Akiva means.

Bereishit 29: 32 35

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32) Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuven. G-d has seen (raah) my troubles, she said. Now my husband will love me. 33) She became pregnant again and had a son. G-d has heard (shama) that I was unloved, she said, and He gave me this son. She named the child Shimon. 34) She became pregnant again and had a son. Now my husband will become attached (laveh) to me, she said, because I have given him 3 sons. (Yaakov) therefore named the child Levi. 35) She became pregnant again and had a son. She said, This time let me thank (hodah) G-d, and named the child Yehuda. She then stopped having children.

  • What do you notice about all the names given to the children?

  • Is there a connection between a person and the name they are given? If so, what is it?

There are 3 names a person has:

The name which his parents gave him,

The name which others call him,

The name which he gives to himself.

Midrash Tanchuma

  • What is the difference between these 3 names?

  • Which do you think is the most important?

In the famous balcony scene of Romeo & Juliet, (Act 2 Scene 2)


O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name

What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title, Romeo, doff thy name,

Is our name just simply our name?

Whats the problem?

Well, as we can see from Bereshit, a persons name is an integral part of them. Indeed, in Bereshit Chapter 2, Hashem gives Adam the opportunity to name all the animals and to find a mate. It was only once Adam had named all the animals, that he discovered there was no one for him. It was only once the animals had names that they took on personalities and characters. Hashem therefore created Ishah the root of this word comes from Ish (man) as did Woman herself!

Well, if names are so important, surely the reasons why we are called Bnei Akiva (something that we care and work so passionately for) should be on the tip of our tongues (one tongue each)! No? Heres the info then

What is Bnei Akiva?

In 5689 (1929), the Bnei Akiva movement was established. Embedded within the name Bnei Akiva is a deep and symbolic meaning. Rabbi Akiva was great amongst the Tanaim. The choice of the name Bnei Akiva, as opposed to Bnei Rabbi Akiva illustrates the ideological complexity of the ideas in the Bnei Akiva movement. The choice further symbolises the various components upon which the movement is based. Bnei Akiva is named after:

A Man of the Land

A life of work and industry in a simple fashion and conforming to the work ethic, as reflected in Akivas long-term work as the shepherd of the rich Jew Kalba Savua.

A Talmid Chacham

Ahavat Torah and the conscientious study of Torah, as Akiva, an Am Haaretz (uneducated man), studied until he became one of the greatest Tanaim of Am Yisrael, and paved a unique way of comprehensive learning of all aspects of the Torah together. In the same way, Akivas heroic saying to his students is well known: All my life I failed to understand the meaning of To serve Hashem with all ones soul I said when will the day come that I can fulfil this, and now that the day has come, shall I not fulfil it? (Gemara Berachot 61)

A Faithful Companion

The fact that Rabbi Akiva was a faithful companion is seen not only by his following of at least 24,000 students, but also by his basic rule: You shall love you neighbour as yourself, this is a great principle in the Torah.

A Faithful Husband

Rabbi Akiva was a faithful husband. The love between him and his wife, Rachel, was a pure love. In conditions of poverty Rabbi Akiva declared to his students that everything belonged to Rachel (as she had supported him whilst he was learning) and in conditions of wealth Rabbi Akiva made Rachel a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav a very precious piece of jewellery with the shape of Jerusalem inscribed upon it, which he bought for Rachel.

A Supporter of the Bar Kochba Rebellion

Love of the people and the land expressed in theory and in practice by his forthright support of the Bar Kochba rebellion against the Romans and his death in the sanctification of the name of Hashem, making him one of the Ten Martyrs to die under the torture of the Romans.

Rabbi Akivas Optimism and Unwavering Vision

Long ago, as Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva were walking on the road, they could heard the noise of the crowds at Rome as they travelled from Puteoli (an Italian seaport) a hundred and twenty miles away. They all began to weep, but Rabbi Akiva seemed happy. Said they to him: Why are you happy? Said he to them: Why are you weeping? Said they: These heathens who bow down to images and burn incense to idols live in safety and ease, whereas our Temple, our Gods foothold (Eichah 2:1), is burnt down by fire, so should we then not weep? Akiva replied: Thats why Im happy. If they that offend God do so well, how much better will they do if they obey God!

Once again they were coming up to Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. They all began to weep while Rabbi Akiva seemed happy. Why, said they to him, are you happy? Said he: Why are you weeping? Said they to him: The place of which it was once said, And the stranger that comes too near [to the Sanctuary] will be put to death (Bemidbar ), is now become the haunt of foxes, and so should we not weep?

Said he to them: Thats why Im happy; for it is written, And I will take to Me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the Priest and Zechariah the Son of Yeverechiah. (Isaiah 8:2). Now what connection has this Uriah the Priest with Zechariah? Uriah lived during the times of the first Temple, while the prophet Zechariah lived during the second Temple; but the Bible linked the prophecy of Zechariah with Uriah, In the prophecy of Uriahs time it is written, Therefore, because of you will Zion be ploughed up as a field and Jerusalem will become heaps of rubble (Micah 3:12) and in Zechariah it is written, So says the God of Hosts: One day old men and women will once again live in the streets of Jerusalem and the streets of the city will be full of boys and girls playing in the streets. (Zechariah 8:4-5). So you see, so long as Uriahs [threatening] prophecy was not fulfilled, I was worried that Zechariahs prophecy might not come true; but now that Uriahs prophecy has literally come true, it is quite certain that Zechariahs prophecy will also come true! They said to him: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us! (Talmud: Makkot 24a/b)

At one of our lowest points in Jewish History, Rabbi Akiva had hope. He never doubted Hashems commitment to Am Yisrael. This is something really powerful and a message we can learn.

In 1929 Bnei Akiva movement was established and embedded in its name is deep and symbolic meaning. We too, strive to find a way to combine a life of work and a life of Torah, whilst constantly caring for the People and Land of Israel.

We have seen throughout this kvutsah that names are important and say a lot about us. The fact that we are called Bnei Akiva speaks volumes and it is so important that we know what we stand for, and what are name actually means literally, as well as thinking what this names means to all of us.

Can the name Bnei Akiva mean something to us, if we did not choose this name?

Who gives us the name is important too. If someone gives us a name, it is not something we have chosen. However, by deciding to belong to Bnei Akiva, we chose to identify with the given name and have an awful lot to strive towards.

Dictionary Definition:

NAME (n)

  1. A word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others.

  2. A word or group of words used to describe or evaluate, often disparagingly.

  3. Representation or repute, as opposed to reality: a democracy in name, a police state in fact.

Abigail -G-d brings joy Aliza - happy Aviva - Springtime Deborah bee

Dina - justice Ilana -tree Esther - star Gila -joy Judith - a Jew Rina - song

Sara -princess Shoshana - rose Yael -mountain goat

Adam - of the earth Ari - lion Chaim - life David - beloved Dov -bear

Eli majesty Eliezer - help of G-d Jonathan - G-ds gift Joseph - he adds

Joshua - help belongs to G-d Moshe - drawn from the water

Saul asked for Solomon - peaceful Tzvi - deer

Everyone has a Name By Zelda

Everyone has name

given to him by God

and given to him by his father and


Everyone has a name

given to him by his size

and his smiles

and given to him by his clothing

Everyone has a name

given to him by the mountains

and given to him by his walls

Everyone has a name

given to him by the stars

and given to him by his neighbours

Everyone has a name

given to him by his sins

and given to him by his longing

Everyone has a name

given to him by his enemies

and given to him by his love

Everyone has a name

given to him by his holidays

and given to him by his work

Everyone has a name

given to him by the seasons

and given to him by his blindness

Everyone has a name

given to him by the sea

and given to him

by his death.


1. To learn that each name has a meaning

Matching pairs with names and their translations.

An alternative to this, is to split your kvutsah into teams and each team has the names and their translations and they must try and match them up.

Call my bluff

2. To learn about the life of Rabbi Akiva

Treasure hunt have a treasure hunt around the shul, and on the back of each clue is a part of Rabbi Akivas life. (N.b. Make sure kvutsot stagger the timings of their treasure hunts as thingsll be manic if everyones running around at thesame time. Think of places where you can hide clues that BA has access to and that do not disturb other kvutsot, and encourage chanichim to be calm and careful, as running around the shul can lead to damage that is not good and is to be avoided!) This can lead on to

Act out the different stages of his life

3. To think about what names say about a person or organisation and gain an understanding of why we are called Bnei Akiva

Dingbats theres often more to it than initially meets the eye.

  • The logo game Part 1: hold up several different company logos, including the Bnei Akiva semel, and see how quickly they recognise what it represents (this can be done with a volunteer from 2 teams battling it out against each other fastest finger first ) Part 2: Look at the logos in more detail which actually reveal something about the company, and which are just funky patterns. Look again at the semel and show how not only is it quite pretty, but how it also shows our commitment to Torah VAvodah.

Thought Shower

Use this page to write down any ideas you have and also ideas from your Roshim and fellow madrichim.



Aim 1: Aim 2: Aim 3:

Related Games Related Games Related Games

Points for discussion:

Kishut needed:

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