Yitro is the name of our Torah portion. Yitro is the father-in-law of Moses. Yitro appears at the beginning of our Torah portion giving advice to Moses regarding what Israel’s legal system should look like. But Yitro, according to the rabbinic tradition, does not have only one name but many, seven to be accurate (see Mekhilta 18:1, Sifrei BaMidvar 10:29). These are his names: Reuel, Yeter, Yitro, Hobab, Heber, Keni and Putiel. According to the rabbinic imagination each one of the names that appear in different parts of the Bible about Yitro denotes another quality or virtue of this famous priest from Midian. For example he is call Yeter (lit. “add”) because a whole section of the Torah (our Torah portion that includes the ten commandments!) was included because of his own merit. Hobab (lit. “love”) because he loves the Torah. Reuel because he was a friend (Re’e) of God (El). And so on.
But Yitro is not the only one with different names. God himself possesses different names. According to the rabbis He also has seven holy names which can’t be erased but in the Jewish tradition over the centuries God was called by many more than seven names (the mystics have 72 names for God!). Some of the names referring to God are: Elohim, IHVH, El-Shadai, Tzevaot, Makom, Shekhina, Hashem, Adonai, etc. Once again the Sages suggest that each name denotes another quality of our God.
But Yitro and God are not the only ones with a multitude of names; according to a famous Midrash each human being receives at least three names (the name given by the parents, the nickname given by the friends and the one s/he creates for himself or herself). All our names, nicknames, titles and adjectives people use to refer to us are other angles of who we are.
Let’s use this Shabbat (during the festive meal may I suggest) to explore, remember and share all the names (and nicknames and adjectives) we have received during our lifetimes. Which one is your favorite? Which do you dislike? How would you like to be called?