In the name of the parsha
Between Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I generally take the time to reflect on my Torah learning of the past year and look forward to what I can learn in the coming year. As part of this annual contemplation, I try to think about how to study the weekly Torah portion. I like to try to come up with ideas or different commentaries to tackle. Sometimes I am successful, and sometimes I am not. I certainly am almost never able to completely follow through.
While reading an article by Rabbi Moshe Taub during Yom Tov, I became intrigued and inspired. Rabbi Taub quoted something from Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin.In his sefer Riseisei Loy’la, R Tzadok writes that just as the name a parent gives their child has special significance, so too the names of the parshiyos are the source of the parshiyos' content. Upon further research, I discovered that this concept is discussed by various other people as well. The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often derive meaning from the name of the weekly parsha. For example, he would point out that the name ofParshas Bo can be read as a command to "go out" or "emerge." He would explain that this is a reminder that we should always strive to grow and develop, both spiritually and intellectually. He also delineated some rules for the names of the parshiyos. The name of the parsha is usually a word at the beginning of the parsha but not always the first word or even the first significant word. For example the word Toldos is a significant word as is evidenced by a parsha by that very name. Yet parshas Noach has the word Toldos before the word Noach and is not given the name Toldos but rather it is given the name Noach. The Rebbah said as well that the name of the parsha is an insight into the essence of the parsha just as Adam naming the animals provided an insight into the essence of the animal. There are other rules as well. My aim is not to analyze these rules in detail, but rather to consider the name of the parsha and to interpret the entire parshah through that lens. In the spirit of לא בשמים הוא - “The Torah is not in the heavens”, the thoughts expressed in this project will mostly be mine unless noted.