Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yocheved Bracha

She came into the world as Addis Sisay, was Addis Morris on her Embassy paperwork and ticket home, then became Evelyn Sisay. So why not add one more... At her conversion to Judaism on the Friday before Passover, and then before about 400 dear family and friends this past Saturday, we gave Evelyn a Hebrew name: Yocheved Bracha.

In Judaism, Hebrew names are given for the purpose of Jewish rituals - primarily when called to read a blessing on the Torah (an aliyah) and in formal Hebrew documents, including the marriage contract (ketubah). For boys, that name is given at the bris (ritual circumcision) always performed on the eighth day of life. For girls, it's really done "whenever." For us, Evelyn's naming was just another step in fully embracing this beautiful child as a member of our family and of our religion and people as a whole.

Below are what Morrie and I read at Evelyn's naming on Saturday. Morrie also wrote a beautiful prayer that Ev's godparents - Morrie's sister Alisa and her husband Glenn - read. Once I can figure out how to put Hebrew on this blog, I'll add that too!

We are so honored to share the blessing of her name - and of her life! - with all of you!

(Morrie's words on her first name)

Evelyn – What an amazing journey you’ve had and we’ve had to reach this day. And what an amazing journey awaits for us as a family from this moment on…

We have given you the Hebrew name Yocheved Bracha which means “God’s glory and blessing” or even “God’s glorious blessing” and without a doubt, you are truly living up to the meaning behind your name. Your first name, Yocheved, is after my great aunt Evelyn who was truly a great aunt and my God mother. Aunt Evelyn loved life. She was always very youthful. And she, along with Uncle Ralph, z’’l, travelled the world. They were very social people and social conscious people. Family and friends were of the utmost importance to them. And in Aunt Evelyn’s final days of life, Baba Marilyn told her that we were just starting the process of adoption – so Aunt Evelyn knew that you were on the way well over a year before you were even born. I am confident that Aunt Evelyn is smiling upon right now, so proud that you are carrying her name.

The name Yocheved is also a very distinguished name in the Torah. Yocheved was Moses’ mother, who much like your birth-mother, made the brave and selfless decision to let her child go so that he could simply have a chance at life, and with the help of God, a happy, healthy and long life. Moses survived and rose to greatness – in God’s eyes, among his people and throughout the world. When we met your birth mother, we asked her what her hopes were for you and we assured her that we would do everything possible to help you achieve those goals. She said that she wanted you to have a good education. We responded, “She won’t have a choice in that one” at which point all of us laughed and your birth Mom smiled from ear to ear with love and pride.

She then said that she wanted you to hold an important position in life. Achieving that goal will take a lot of hard work, but you can do it, and rest assured, Evelyn, that you already hold an important position in our lives as our beautiful daughter and as Zachary’s adorable sister. With the sacred history behind your name, we know that you have the potential to impact the world in everlasting ways much like Moses did, and we know that you will continue to impact our family with much love and joy just like Aunt Evelyn did.

We love you so much and never forget that you are God’s glorious blessing and our glorious blessing, too.

(My words on her middle name)

For most people, middle names are very secondary and oftentimes afterthoughts to first names. But Evelyn, your middle name was actually your first name – the name that you were given by your birth mother. And it’s much more than a middle name, it’s the name that is at the center of your entire name. It is a reminder that at the very core of your being, you have a very special cultural identity and personal history that is the foundation of who you are.

When we found out that your Ethiopian name was “Addis Sisay,” we know that you were our beshert, the girl who was meant to be our daughter. For the almost two years since we first decided to adopt, your brother Zachary – and then the rest of us – almost exclusively referred to you as “Sissy.” Imagine our surprise when we saw that your name was Sisay. Daddy and I looked at your referral information in shock and said, “Oh my gosh, her name really IS Sissy!” And, we saw that your birth mother’s name was Sisay as well. We knew that we wanted to incorporate this name into your English name, but first we wanted to know what it meant. So, we called the Ethiopian restaurant in Montclair. We were told that Adis means “new” and Sisay means “blessing.” “New blessing.” That is truly what you are.

When we met your birth mother, Sisay, in January during our first trip to Ethiopia – about an hour after you legally became our daughter – we asked why she chose this name for you. She explained that she chose “Addis” – new – because you were new to her. And she chose “Sisay” because that was her name. You were the “new Sisay.” She defined Sisay not as “blessing” but as “gift,” and told us that her mother – your birth grandmother – had named her that because she had no complications with her pregnancy or delivery, and that was truly a gift. So your English middle name – your Ethiopian name, Sisay – has a long family history for you. You yourself came from a gift.

When we were determining your Hebrew middle name, we had to weigh “blessing” versus “gift.” Certainly you are both to our family. But a gift is something that is given from one to another, whereas a blessing is a gift that is bestowed in a holier way. A blessing gives thanks to God and holds promises for the future. And so, we have given you the Hebrew name of Bracha.

Just as your English middle name of Sisay is central to who you are, so too is your Hebrew middle name of Bracha. We hope and pray that at the center of who you are and who you become, your life is full of only blessings, and we are so grateful for the blessing that God has bestowed upon us in giving us the honor of being your parents and family.

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