I made a conscious decision to change my name, and therefore my identity when I made Aliyah. In no way was it meant to disrespect my parents, who chose my original name.
There are times when we discover that in our life, we begin to manifest characteristics that need a significant shift.
I had two names. One name, my father A”H, gave to me when he received an Aliyah to the Torah and named me according to the ways of the Jewish People. The second was an “American” name.
I was named for my maternal great-grandmother, Esther Zelda. Growing up, Zelda was a hard cross to carry and bear. The taunts and the teasing were unbearable.
If I choose to see the good, and I do, 95% of people called me by my “American” name.
The excruciating exceptions were during my Religious Studies classes, and at family gatherings.
I had a wonderfully loving, childless great-uncle, who insisted on calling, all of his family members, by their “Jewish” names.
At those times, I cringed and wished to be, what I felt was my spirit animal, any animal that burrowed and lived in isolation.
I did take pride, though, in the Esther part. Every Purim I wanted to be Queen Esther, the savior of her people, the heroine.
I wanted not to be a princess but a queen!
Somehow, the queen got lost along the way. Maybe it had something to do with how I interpreted what I learned in Parshat Shemot as a teenager.
It is written:
״בזכות נשים צדקניות נגאלו ישראל ממצרים״
“In the merit of the righteous women, Israel was redeemed from Egypt.”
One interpretation compellingly stuck with me.
The Jewish women in Egypt did not fall to assimilation. They did not give their children “Egyptian” names, only Jewish ones.
I did precisely that. I refused, against pressure, to give my children “American” names, even if only for their “passport” or their “so-called future.”
For me, the only future as Jews was one which aligned with our history as a Jewish People and the righteous women in Egypt.
I wanted to be a righteous woman in America.
Somehow that didn’t play out the way I had hoped.
When I made Aliyah, my American name followed me. It was a significant turning point for me. I realized that I needed to change my tragic centered life.
Esther is a heroine, but she was dominated by a cruel king and imprisoned away from her people.
I related on a way too personal level to every aspect of this.
I began a search to my deepest core in understanding, now that I had come home, to Israel, how to discover a way to build a whole new life.
I had been living in what appeared to be a strange interpretation of Robert Frost’s infamous poem, “A Road Not Taken.” I had continuously and repeatedly taken the wrong road.
One morning I awoke with this overwhelming feeling that my name was supposed to be Hadar. It was just bizarre. There is no other way to describe it. I decided to do my due diligence, and I Googled the name Hadar.
It all just seemed to fit with what I wanted to create.
I had been studying about how I could personally start taking responsibility for my own life.
At some point in a person’s life, they need to stop making excuses. I could remain a victim, or I could change my own story.
I love the fact that President Harry S. Truman had a plaque on his desk that stated:
“The Buck Stops Here.”
At some point in your life, you need to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility as to how you want to move forward.
You need to forgive, though, as history teaches us never to forget!
Do I want to continue to play the victim, or do I want to be the writer, director, and producer of the rest of my life?
So, Hadar it was to be.
Now having grown up in an Orthodox family and environment, I wanted to do this name change one hundred percent according to halacha. I checked it out with the “big names.” I even have an official letter signed by HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita, declaring that it’s all “kosher.”
I am forever to be known as Hadar Esther Zelda. My children, according to halacha, should be called by their names, Bat Hadar Esther Zelda. If anyone has a problem with this, you may take it up with HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita.
Why is this so important to me, you might ask?
I learned in my quest for my true identity about something called “ways of being.”
If I commit to showing up in the world with specific attributes, then I am taking responsibility to accept that the only person in life I can change is myself.
Depending on what stage of life I am in, my “ways of being” can shift. At this exact moment, I am committed to being a calm, grateful, and easygoing woman.
I work on this daily and “my ways of being” change as I continue to grow and shift. It is not easy, and it takes a tremendous amount of will, desire to change and to be extremely vulnerable to your faults.
The bonuses, though, are incomparable, but it is a slow process. Still, as they say, “practice makes perfect.”
I am a human and, therefore, will never be perfect, but I will strive every day to be better than I was the day before.
I see my “ways of being,” and my name change, intertwined, and manifesting every day, and I see God’s stamp of approval everywhere I turn.
As my beloved father A”H, slipped into a coma, a little over 30 years ago, a decision was made not to call me to his bedside, yet neighbors and friends were. I was only informed of his passing once his body was removed by the Chevra Kadisha from his home.
The wound was deep and festered for years to the point that I believed it had become gangrenous.
I held tremendous anger in my heart for so long.
After my Aliyah, I had become a loyal and devoted great-niece to my great-aunt in Jerusalem. I visited with her regularly. I took her out on trips to the mall, restaurants, and the botanical gardens. I kept vigil by her bedside when she was hospitalized more than once. As she lay dying in Shaarei Tzedek Hospital at the ripe old age of 100, I was holding her hand. At the same time, other family members, one by one, needed to leave for their reasons.
I found myself alone with my beloved great-aunt, and as I held her hand, I just knew it was time to come full circle.
She was not conscious but deep in my soul, I knew she heard me as I told her, “It’s okay, they are all waiting for you in heaven. It’s just you and me now, and I am going to say the “Shema Yisroel” for you, and you can go peacefully.”
I said the prayer, “Hear Oh Israel: The Lord Our God, The Lord is One.”
As soon as I ended my recitation, her hand went limp, and I knew she had passed.
All of the anger that I had not been by my father’s bedside when he passed was gone.
God had rewarded me for my service to my beloved great-aunt, and the wrong had been righted.
If that was not enough proof for me, the verse which her immediate family chose for her gravestone states:
״עוז והדר לבושה״
My newly adopted name was etched forever and intertwined for eternity with her.
There are many interpretations from Hebrew to English for the name Hadar.
I choose the following two definitions, and therefore, two characteristics which I am trying to embody each day:
1. Honor: to honor God and my fellow man
2. Glorify: to glorify God’s name and my Homeland, the Modern State of Israel.
Am Yisroel Chai