My wife had a couple of significant milestones in her life as this week comes to a close. She officially changed her name from Samantha Ashley Shabman to Samantha Shabman Trief. Yes, it turns out I am no longer the only rabbi with the unusual last name of Trief. Of course, though I enjoyed being the only one, there’s no one else with whom I’d rather share it.
Not just a name change, but Sam also celebrates 30 revolutions around the sun this week. Two momentous occasions; her name and her time! After all, few things are more important than the name given to us and we create for ourselves, and the way we spend our time on this Earth. They help create our legacy and engrave our story in the eternal one of the Jewish People.
Name and Time: Their power seem especially relevant this week as we read the infamous story of the Golden Calf in our Book of Exodus. The People could not stand Moses’ absence on the top of Sinai and so demanded Aaron make an idol for them that they could worship. Such was their mental weakness…such was their spiritual slump, they traded in the leadership of Moses and their covenant with God for sparkling golden rings that they melted and engraved into a statue.
What is the essence of idolatry? It is attributing false value to a physical object or being. It is a phenomenon supremely relevant even in modern times. Whether the screens that dominate our time or the objects we crave, whether money or celebrities, the ways to worship idols abound in our days.
Name and Time: Idolatry means spending our short time here in a way not befitting our name and our People’s name. The Golden Calf is a cautionary tale. How do we best spend our time to make it into a blessing? How do we earn the name we receive and the name we make for ourselves?
My wife has taught me a few of these answers. Whether with a friend, a family member, or a spouse, I pray that we can all discover some potential answers. As a synagogue family, we dedicate ourselves to this task.
May it be a Shabbat of time well-spent with those we love.