Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Anatomy of a Name: Chaviva

So I was thinking, my name is Chaviva -- חביבה -- is quite pretty, and I often get comments about how bizarre and unique it is. Yes, it's pretty rare in the scheme of things. It's not a modern Hebrew name, although it's working its way into the lexicon pretty swiftly. So from where is the name sourced?  I see it in two different interesting spaces.

1. משנה תורה מנוקד - ספר עבודה - הלכות מעשה הקרבנות פרק ד

Even though the eimorim and the limbs [of the sacrifices] may be offered on the fire of the altar at night, they may not be willingly delayed. Instead, an attempt should be made to offer everything during the day, for it is desirable that a mitzvah be performed at its designated time. [The importance of this can be seen from the fact that] the offering of the eimorim and the limbs [of the sacrifices] on the fire of the altar supersedes the Sabbath prohibitions on that day. We do not delay this until Saturday night. (via Chabad.org)

2. משנה תורה מנוקד - ספר זמנים - הלכות מגילה וחנוכה פרק ד

The mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lamps is very dear. A person should be very careful in its observance to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except [what he receives] from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them [in fulfillment of the mitzvah]. (via Chabad.org)
And then, according to my Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, חביבה was the name of many Amoraim. Most oft' quoted I see is
"R. Habiba says men call their grandsons sons..."

So what's in a name? I'm still not sure. I chose it way-back-when because my given name, Amanda, means lovable or "worthy to be loved." Chaviva means basically the same thing in Modern Hebrew. The translations above suggest that חביבה means desirable or very dear.  I searched again and found three pages worth of Chaviva goodness. A super common use of חביבה that many folks know is the following:
חביבה עלי כת קטנה שבארץ ישראל יותר מסנהדרין גדולה שבחוצה לארץ
Essentially, it says something along the lines of, "More beloved to me is a sect/faction in Eretz Yisrael than a Great Sanhedrin outside of the land." I'm also loving a portion from the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berakoth 63a where it discusses what to do if the people hold the Torah dear, and what to do if they do not hold it dear (תורה חביבה).

Okay, I could seriously spend days looking at the references to this word in the Talmud, but I won't bore you with it. It seems that the word חביבה is used in instances of deep and passionate commitment. In Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 10a, the text refers to King David, saying,
כל פרשה שהיתה חביבה על דוד פתח בה באשרי וסיים בה באשרי
Basically, every parshah or chapter that was "beloved" by David began with happiness and ended with happiness. It seems to be a word of endearment, devotion, passion.

A long time ago, in my senior year of high school, I wrote a paper on etymology -- the study of names. I learned of the importance of names in the development and creation of our personalities and lives, and it's something I've always clung to. I chose the name Chaviva without really thinking about it, and all of the years as I've further embodied the name, I haven't really thought about whether I'm actually embodying the depth of the name. 

So, what do I say? To fully live up to the oomph of my name, I would live a life such that HaShem would be comfortable and eager to call me חביבה חביבה -- Chaviva, beloved. Chaviva, very dear. And am I living my life in such a way that HaShem -- or even those closest to me -- would see me as someone ever-so dear and beloved? 

I think that every day when I open my eyes, when I thank HaShem for giving my spirit back to me, I am trying. I am starting and striving to embody the beloved. So, you could say it's appropriate that I'm spending the month of Elul reading Shir haShirim -- Song of Songs -- every day. It's a segula, you see.

There's a tradition to say Psalm 27 during morning and evening davening from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur. I won't explain it here, but you can read about it here.  The bit about reciting Shir haShirim comes from the fact that Elul is an acronym from Ani l'dodi, v'dodi li -- I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine -- from Shir haShirim 6:3. During this time, the Ba'al Shem Tov said that these are the days when "the King is in the field." The idea here is that HaShem is in the field, ready to listen and accept, to hear our prayers completely. 

So 'tis the season to really talk to HaShem for me. To be the beloved, to learn to embody my name. To ask HaShem to see my deeds, grant me a zivug sheni, grant me shalom. And then, perhaps, my second Hebrew name -- אליענה -- will make all the more sense. 

How are you embodying your name? How are you approaching the month of Elul?