MidReal Story

Divine Names: Emily's Spiritual Awakening

Scenario: Girl learns about the hebrew names of god
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Girl learns about the hebrew names of god
I was only seven years old when I first heard the Hebrew names of God.
I was at the synagogue with my parents, and I overheard Rabbi Samuel Cohen talking to a group of men.
They were discussing the names of God, and I was curious.
I tugged on my father’s sleeve and asked him what they were talking about.
He shushed me and told me to be quiet, but I couldn’t help myself.
I had to know what they were talking about.
So I listened as hard as I could, trying to make out what they were saying.
But it was no use.
They were speaking in Hebrew, and I didn’t know any Hebrew at all.
I tugged on my father’s sleeve again and asked him if he knew the names of God.
He told me that he did, but that it was something that only the rabbi could talk about.
So I went over to Rabbi Cohen and asked him if he would tell me the names of God.
I asked him how old I had to be to know the names of God.
Rabbi Cohen’s eyes twinkled and he said that I’d have to be at least thirteen.
So I asked him why my father knew them, but I didn’t.
He looked at my father and they both smiled.
“Why don’t you ask your father that question,” Rabbi Cohen said.
I looked up at my father.
He was smiling too, but I could see that he was trying to hide it.
When we got home, I asked my father about the names of God.
He told me that there were three names: Elohim, Adonai, and Shaddai.
I asked him why we couldn’t talk about them outside the synagogue.
He told me that it was because they were very holy names, and that Jews never spoke the name of God aloud.
I wanted to know why Jews never said the name of God, but my father told me that it was complicated and that I wouldn’t understand until I was older.
But I did understand.
I understood that no matter how old I was, some things would never make sense.
Some things would always be a mystery.
I also understood that I would never be able to leave those three names behind.
They would follow me wherever I went, just like Rabbi Cohen’s gentle eyes.
And when they caught up with me, they would remind me of everything that I had lost.
Sometimes, I wish that Rabbi Cohen had never told me about those names because they bring back memories that I’d rather forget.
Memories of a time when everything seemed so simple, but nothing was what it seemed.
It was a time when my life was defined by secrets and lies, a time when nothing was sacred except for the truth.
It all started one day when I was seven years old and my parents brought me to the synagogue for Shabbat services.
My father was a regular at the synagogue; it was his second home, after our house.
We went to services every week, but we only went to the Torah service once a month.
On those days the rabbi would read from the Torah and talk about its meaning.
Everyone loved Rabbi Samuel Cohen; he was an old man with a long white beard and gentle eyes who knew more about Judaism than anyone else in our congregation.
So when he spoke, people listened.
They waited with bated breath for his words of wisdom, as if he were an oracle who would reveal the secrets of the universe if they could only decipher his message.
But as far as I could tell, he never said anything special during his sermons; he just talked about religion and philosophy like he always did.
But one day he said something that caught everyone’s attention: he said that there were ten names for God in Hebrew.
Everyone gasped at the same time when they heard him say this.
They looked at each other with wide eyes and whispered among themselves as if they had never heard this before.
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My father leaned down to me and whispered in my ear, “seven of them are too powerful for us to use, so we only use the other three.”
I didn’t know what to make of this information.
I looked up at my father with a puzzled expression.
“Why are they too powerful?”
My father didn’t answer me.
Instead, he shook his head and said, “It’s hard to explain, but maybe Rabbi Cohen will tell you when you’re older.”
I looked over at Rabbi Cohen, who was standing at the bimah, reading from the Torah.
He had an ancient, faraway look in his eyes as he recited the words and I wondered what he was thinking.
Could it be that he was thinking about those seven forbidden names?
Did he know what they meant?
Did anyone?
After services, I waited for Rabbi Cohen in front of the sanctuary, hoping to ask him about the names of God.
But when he came out, everyone wanted to talk to him, so I didn’t get a chance to speak with him.
Instead, I walked home with my parents and asked them again about the Hebrew names of God.
I wanted to know what they were and why they were so powerful.
My father smiled down at me as we walked.
He seemed happy to have this conversation with me, but his eyes were sad, as if he were trying to hide something from me.
“You see, Emily,” he said, “God is very special to us, so we have many different names for Him.”
I nodded, trying to show that I understood, although I really didn’t.
“And some of those names are so powerful that we can’t use them for everyday conversation.”
“Why not?”
“Because they’re too holy,” my father said.
His voice was soft now, almost a whisper.
“They represent aspects of God that are beyond our understanding.”
“But what do they mean?”
“I’m not sure,” my father said.
“I think it might be better if you ask Rabbi Cohen instead.”
I was getting frustrated now.
I felt like I was getting nowhere with this conversation.
So I asked my father one last question: “If you don’t know what they mean, then how do you know they’re holy?”
My father stopped walking and looked down at me with a strange expression on his face.
It was as if he were seeing me for the first time, or maybe for the last time.
“I don’t know,” he said.
He looked away and shook his head.
Finally, he took a deep breath and said, “Some things are just meant to be taken on faith, Emily.
We can’t always understand everything we believe in.”
“But I want to understand,” I said.
My father smiled again and patted me on the head.
“I know you do,” he said.
“I know you do.”
At home, I asked my mother about the names of God.
She told me the same thing my father had told me: that there were three of them, and they were all very holy.
She also told me that I shouldn’t worry too much about it because God knew that I believed in Him and loved Him.
I wanted to know why He had different names if He was all the same God.
But my mother said she didn’t know and suggested I ask Rabbi Cohen instead.
So the next time I saw him at the synagogue, I went up to him and asked him about the different names of God.
His eyes twinkled as they always did when I asked him a question.
And then he told me that God had different names because He was different things to different people.
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His explanation only left me with more questions.
Like, where did those other people come from?
And why did they all need different names for the same God?
But then it was time for Hebrew school, and I got distracted by all the other things going on in my life—like playing with my friends and riding my bike and learning how to read—and I forgot all about the conversation I’d had with Rabbi Cohen in the hallway at the synagogue.
As I grew older and became a teenager, I thought less and less about God’s different names because there were so many other things happening in my life that seemed more important—like boys and parties and trying to fit in at school.
And then I became an adult and had real problems of my own—like finding a job and paying my bills and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life—and I forgot all about God’s different names altogether.
It wasn’t until many years later, when my life was completely falling apart, that I remembered what Rabbi Cohen had told me that day in the hallway at the synagogue.
This time, I was sitting in a pew at the synagogue and staring up at the stained glass windows, looking for answers.
And all of a sudden, his explanation about God’s different names came back to me with perfect clarity.
It was like something inside my brain had just clicked into place.
And I realized that it wasn’t such a difficult concept to understand after all.
Because even though God was different things to different people, He was still always God.
And who He was to me depended on who I was to Him.
And who I was to Him depended on what I believed in my heart and how I chose to live my life.
I also realized that I hadn’t come back to the synagogue by accident.
I’d come back because I needed help—and God knew it and had sent me here so that I could get it.
My father used to say that there are no coincidences—only events that we don’t yet understand.
He said that everything happens for a reason and that God always has a plan, even when we can’t see it.
And I believed him.
Because somehow, even though I couldn’t explain it, I knew that everything he’d ever told me about God and religion and faith was true.
It was like I’d always known it in my heart—even when I didn’t know it in my head.
But maybe it takes something really bad happening to you in order to make you realize how much you need God—or how much you need anything, really—and how much you’ve always needed Him all along.
It’s like sometimes you have to lose everything in order to find yourself—or maybe in order to find Him.
And you have to be broken before you can be healed.
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I found myself standing at the entrance to the Summer Festival, looking around at the multicolored streamers and the festive decorations that covered all the shops and storefronts in the town square.
The Summer Festival was an event that marked the unofficial beginning of the summer season in our small town, and it was held every year during the first week of June to celebrate the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation.
There were all kinds of things going on at the festival, like games and rides and live music—and tons of food!
But mostly it was just an excuse for everyone to come down to the town square and hang out and have fun together.
I’d always loved going to the Summer Festival when I was a kid, and even though I hadn’t been there in years—since before I’d left for college—I found myself being drawn to it this year for some reason.
So, even though there were other things that I probably should have been doing, I decided to give myself the afternoon off and go check it out.
I’d parked my car along the side of the street near the town square earlier in the morning, so it only took me a couple of minutes to get there on foot.
As I walked past the shops and storefronts, I could smell the aroma of hot dogs and popcorn and other delicious foods wafting through the air—and hear the sounds of laughter and music in the distance—coming from the other side of the square where all the rides and games were set up.
I strolled across the cobblestone pavement along the perimeter of the square, taking in all the sights and sounds as I went.
The town square was decorated with colorful banners and balloons for the occasion, and all the storefronts had hung lights and streamers over their windows and doors to make them look more festive.
Even the trees in the park at the center of town had been strung with lights, and there were sparkly decorations hanging from their branches.
As I made my way around the square, I passed by a few people who were sitting on benches and stools, eating their lunch and enjoying the fresh air.
But it wasn’t until I was almost all the way around to the other side of the square that I heard someone calling my name from behind me.
“Emily, is that you?I turned around to see who it was and saw Michael Jensen standing there, walking up to me with his long legs and bright blue eyes.
“Hi,” he said, as he got closer.
“Hey,” I said, feeling awkward, not really sure what to do or how to act.
“Wow, it’s been awhile.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“It has.” We stood there like that for a minute, looking at each other, not saying anything.
Michael Jensen had been one of my best friends when I was growing up, and we’d known each other ever since we were little kids.
We used to live next door to each other on the same street, and our parents were friends.
So we’d played together all the time and gone to each other’s birthday parties and done everything together for years and years.
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Or at least, that was what I thought until now.
“What are you doing here?”
I asked, finally.
“I thought you moved away or something.”
“I did,” he said.
“But I’m back now.
Just in time for the festival and the summer and everything.”
“Oh.” I paused, waiting for him to say something else—some kind of explanation or clarification—but when he didn’t, I wondered whether he was going to tell me more about what was really going on or just leave me hanging like that, not knowing what was happening.
So I decided to ask him, even though it made me feel a little bit awkward and embarrassed to have to do it.
“Why are you back?”
“I don’t know,” he said, smiling slyly, his eyes twinkling with mischief behind his glasses.
“I’m not ready to say just yet.”
“Oh.” I frowned, feeling a little bit hurt and confused by that, wondering why he wouldn’t want to tell me what was really going on, or whether there was something else happening that was making him act like that.
“But I’m back and I’m here to stay for now and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
At least not for a while, anyway.
And I thought to myself, wondering why he was doing that and whether he was really trying to hide something—or maybe just being his usual mysterious self—or whether there was some other reason why he wouldn’t want to tell me the truth.
We stood there like that for a minute, looking at each other in silence.
And I realized how much I missed him and how much I’d wanted to see him again all this time.
And I also realized how much I’d wanted to know him better and spend more time with him.
And I thought to myself, wondering whether there was any way I could do that and whether he would be up for it—or maybe even feel the same way himself.
“So what have you been up to?”
Michael asked, breaking the silence.
“Not much,” I said.
“I’ve just been hanging out around town and working, same as always.”
“What about you?”
“Oh,” he said.
he said with a smile.
“You know me—I’ve been all over the place and having all kinds of adventures and living the life of a big city boy in New York.”
I laughed at that.
“That’s just like you,” I said.
“No matter where you go, you’re always looking for a good time and having fun—always ready to try anything once and do whatever comes your way.”
“That’s right,” he said, smiling smugly at me.
“And you know what else?”
he said with a grin.
“I’m glad to be back.”
“So am I.” We stood there like that for a minute, just looking at each other and smiling.
And then we both laughed and hugged each other again.
And I could feel his long arms and broad shoulders pressing against me—and smell his clean, fresh scent—and feel his heart beating fast in his chest—and hear his low voice whispering in my ear.
And I realized how much I’d missed him and how much I’d wanted to see him again all this time.
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