When I was younger, I felt like I was constantly at war with myself over everyday decisions. Instead of sitting down and doing my homework or studying for that big test, I would play outside or watch TV. Even though I knew what I should be doing, I would procrastinate, doing everything and anything other than what I needed to do. The assignment would sit on my mind and in my heart — taunting me and my conscience just enough to cause anxiety but not enough to push me to take any kind of action…until it was urgent. The night before the assignment was due or before the big test, I would suddenly be a whirlwind of energy and motivation — getting everything done just in time.
But that me, the one who could sit for hours in front of the computer generating ideas and sentences, would not show up until the situation was desperate. I once bemoaned this personality flaw to my undergraduate thesis advisor who told me that procrastination wasn’t my problem, perfection was. That made me stop and think. What needed to be perfect? Me? The conditions? Was the fear of failure stopping me from trying?
In this week’s parsha, Shemos, Hashem shows Himself to Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush in order to give Moshe the mission of leading the Jewish People out of slavery. At this point in his life, Moshe had run away from Egypt and the palace of Pharaoh and had become a shepherd for his father-in-law’s sheep. At the bush, Hashem had to spend seven (!) days convincing Moshe to take on the job. Moshe simply did not believe that he could do it and he tried desperately to refuse giving various reasons and excuses.
There is a phrase right at the beginning of this life-changing meeting that illustrates an amazing idea. When Hashem called to Moshe the first time, he said “Moshe Moshe.” (Shemos 3:4). This type of call, a “double-name call”, happens three times in the Torah: to our forefathers Avraham and Yaakov and here, to Moshe, our teacher.
In all three cases, the “double-name call” signals a turning point, a new role, a greater mission and, in turn, a deeper connection to The Master of the Universe. The Sages tell us that the “double-name call” is a sign of love and urgency- an expression of both Hashem’s belief in that person and the importance of the task that He is entrusting to them.
I want to suggest another dimension to this concept. There is a custom that, before beginning to pray in the morning, we recite a sentence about uniting the different aspects of Hashem, and the different parts of His Holy Name through our prayers. This statement has much deeper Kabbalistic meaning than I can fathom but something struck me this morning as I said it.
What are we trying to unite? Two parts of G-d? Every time we say the Shema, we declare that He is One, so what does it mean that He needs to be united?
G-d is beyond our understanding and beyond our world, but He also fills our world with His presence and enables Himself to be seen- in the sunrise, in the spring blossoms, in the eyes of a newborn baby, in the Shabbos candles, and even in ourselves. He is unknowable, but He wants us to try to know Him. Through the methods that He gave us: tefillah, mitzvos, and learning Torah we bring together that which is beyond knowing, beyond time and beyond space into our cognizance, our calendar, and our homes and we enable unity between seemingly disparate elements- the finite and the Infinite. If we can see the unity in Hashem despite seemingly opposite aspects, maybe we can also accept and utilize the various parts of our own selves?
When Hashem called to Moshe Rabbeinu from the burning bush, he used the “double-name call.” He spoke to all the parts of Moshe- the prince who stood up for slaves’ rights and the shepherd who ran away from a role in public life, the man who would become the greatest prophet ever and the one who didn’t believe in his own abilities. He was, in a way, unifying the various aspects of Moshe Rabbeinu into one. It was as if Hashem was saying to Moshe, “I know all of you, I put all of these aspects into you, and I gave you the strength to utilize all of them in your service to Me and the world.” It just took a few days for Moshe Rabbeinu to accept this message.
The “double-name call” represents the concept of unifying the various parts of ourselves, the ones that we feel proud of with the ones that concern us, and using them all to perform and pursue our mission here in this world. When we connect ourselves to The One who sees unity in everything, we can understand that each character trait is an essential piece of the puzzle. We can take away the paralysis of focusing on flaws and weaknesses and replace it with hope and encouragement, with the knowledge that potential was woven into us from birth.
I bless each one of us to understand that when Hashem called to Avraham and Yaakov (our fathers) and to Moshe (our teacher) in this way, He also imbued within each one of us the ability to move forward with all of our different pieces and to keep working on using all of them to help grow and build the world. I bless us to know that Hashem loves us and believes in us and to be energized by the sense of urgency He feels for the world to receive what we have to give.