I have quite the collection of name tags. Some of them are nice metal ones from former positions, and some are stickers I’ve collected on my bookshelf or closet door after an event. And because I have a title that goes with me, the names range from simply “Eve” to “Rabbi Eve” to “Rabbi Posen” to the occasional “Shiri’s mom.” Each of these pieces of my identity is important to me and represents a different facet of my daily life. In certain circumstances, like performing a life cycle event or working on a rabbinic project, I am clearly Rabbi Posen. In other places I am Rabbi Eve, playing with the kids in Foundation School or our young families group Shoreshim. For simplicity I introduce myself as “Eve” when I go to an exercise class or an event for my husband Duncan. Of course when I’m in my mommy role for Shiri or Matan, I am simply that – Mommy.
How you introduce yourself to others tells at least a portion of the story of your identity. Every setting and situation, from parent/grandparent mode to professional environments to a casual night with friends, might require a different side of you.
The theme of names and the identities they carry with them is part of the focus of this week’s parshah, Parshat Vayigash. This week we read about how Joseph and his brothers have many moments of heartfelt joy. Joseph’s brother Yehudah tries to redeem himself by asking to be imprisoned instead of Benjamin, and Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and heroically invites the whole family to Egypt to save them from the starvation they face in Israel. In addition, Joseph and his father Jacob are reunited, and Joseph is able to finally reveal his new-found position of power.
Joseph makes a deliberate choice when he reveals himself to his brothers. He says, “I am Joseph.” He had achieved a level of fame and notoriety in Egypt, so he could have identified himself by his Egyptian name and title, but instead he simply shares his name. “I am Joseph.” He knew he would need to rediscover his brotherly identity if this was to be a successful reunion.
Sometimes it feels like we’re wearing multiple name tags all at the same time as we carry different aspects of our identity with us. The challenge is always to figure out which one is best suited for any given moment. What’s important to remember is that having these multiple names doesn’t dilute or diminish who we are; it forms and strengthens who we are able to be.