fiver: thoughtful kitten! (thinking)
[personal profile] fiver posting in [community profile] nameseeking
Some two and a half years ago, I quietly lost my first Hebrew name. It was Tziyona, an unusual and pretty one which I had had a fraught relationship with but mostly liked. I didn't throw it away deliberately or carelessly. I find myself unable to do that to a name that was given to me.

That was when I was beginning my transition from female to male. Tziyona is an extremely feminine name, usually translated as "daughter of Zion." I couldn't really keep it if I was going to acknowledge myself as a son now, practically speaking.

That leaves me in need of a new one.

It's a truism in magical thought that "names have power." It's not exactly untrue, but it's a poor phrasing. It makes it sound like names are passive vessels for this power that makes them so important.

It's more accurate to say, "Names create power." To put a name to a thing that was nameless gives it structure and form, separates it from the void, bestows upon it the strength to contain its own reality.

Most importantly, to give someone a name allows them to communicate with others. If you are the entire world, you have no need for a name, but the moment something other than yourself exists, both you and the other need a name in order to interact. Paradoxically, then, the thing that was meant as a designation of yourself becomes your power to know others.

The name is the beginning of all wisdom, and one of the most respectful ways for a Jew to refer to their god is to call Him haShem, or the Name. It actually originated as a euphemism, precisely because names hum with so much power, and the act of naming a thing is so meaningful--you weren't supposed to speak God's true name, which was beyond the comprehension of human thought.

But a human being needs a name.

That's a bit misleading. I don't actually need a Hebrew name that badly in my day-to-day life, because I'm not very religious. But what if I want to change that? What if I want to go back to my roots as a Jewish man?

The problem is that while I dearly love so much of Judaism's history, culture, and spiritual and moral philosophy, our god Himself greets me as an empty throne. I have almost never felt drawn to worship the Jewish God. I simply cannot feel myself having a personal spiritual relationship with Him.

That doesn't matter to all Jews, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it does to me. I didn't want to leave my religious heritage, but I felt nothing for the god I was meant to worship.

It never occurred to me to ask why. Not until recently, when I realized where the problem lies: most Jews today are only taught about one of God's faces.

Why does a god of all creation represent only one gender, in a reality where infinite combinations of gender and sexuality exist? Oh, modern Reform rabbis will tell you that God has no gender, God is above that, and they'll do their best to scrub the prayerbook clean of gendered pronouns. That's a paper-thin mask over a single facet of God which has historically been treated as male. The solution isn't to neuter Him; the solution is to find and celebrate His other sides, the ones who have so long been buried or erased in the mainstream.

Asherah, Sophia, the Shekhina--they all exist, they are all real parts of Judaism just as much as Hashem. So do more I haven't discovered yet in my incomplete journey through Jewish history, theology, lore, and literature. I will do my research; I will read the Kabbalah. I will also make my own additions, drawn from history and myth, until finally I feel truly comfortable in my own faith for the first time.

I will chronicle the journey here. And at the end--or at least, at one point along it, because journeys like this tend not to end--I will find my new Hebrew name, and maybe God as well.


Seeking the Name

April 2016

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