Friday, July 10, 2009

What's Your Name?

In memory of Evelyn bas Alexander, the second daughter of my great-grandfather and namesake Alexander Maslow, who was laid to rest in Los Angeles this week. Her sister, my grandmother, predeceased her 3 years ago.

I have three questions for your table.

Question 1: What would happen if we all agreed to call felines "dogs" and canines "cats"? Would it make a difference? (you'll understand below why I'm asking)

Q2: While dogs can live up to about 15 years, and cats up to 30 or more, humans can live into the 100s, or even past 120 (world record). What's the secret to a long life?

Aunt Evelyn had one thing that seems to escape a lot of people: she was happy. She wasn't living in a bubble - she knew what was going on in the world, yet she was a happy person. She cared about Israel rejoiced in its successes. This type of story made her sick. Well, I suppose it would make any normal person sick.

According to scientists at the University of Wisconsin, cutting calories is not only good for your health, it can extend your life and the quality of your life.

Well, if you're a rhesus monkey anyway (the scientists cautioned that these findings don't necessarily translate to humans).

You can read the Scientific American article here.

OK, so maybe that's a secret to a long life. But what's the secret to a successful life? (Q3)

There is a an ancient Jewish tradition that after a person dies, the first question they are asked in the next world is, "What's your name?"

According to this tradition, most people can't answer.

In Jewish wisdom, your "name" means your essence, the core purpose of your life. That's why Hebrew names all have denotations. Unlike English, which uses somewhat arbitrary sounds, Hebrew names signify the essence of something or someone.

If we all started referring to felines as "dogs" and canines as "cats", what would be the big deal?

But in Hebrew, "kelev" means canine because it is "k" (like) "lev" (heart) - "man's best friend".

Get it?

Want to find out your spiritual name? Later this month, I will be having an live web class on this topic. If you'd like to sign up, send me an email.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - trivia question - who said, "Can I mombo dogface to the banana patch?"


Hebrew Student said...

The play on the Hebrew words with kelev = "k" plus "lev" is nice. I hadn't heard that before. But it only works in modern society, and in the west. In the times of the Hebrew Bible, dogs were despised creatures like jackals, and in the Middle East they are generally not family pets. Man's best friend is true in the west, but not in the Hebrew Bible.

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

Hi, thanks for your comment. What is your source for that? Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, and while there are some negative images of dogs, it's not clear to me that these indicate that they were not also pets.

There is, in fact, an ancient Midrash that seems to indicate that Israelites had domesticated dogs in Egypt. Would make sense for shepherds.