Dec 30, 2012
Why I Changed My Name

When writer and speaker Sara Esther Crispe introduces herself, she gets tongue-tied, leaving people utterly confused.

Mrs. Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and editor of TheJewishWoman.org, published the following on her weekly blog "Musing for Meaning":

There is one time in our lives when we are definitively granted prophecy. And that is when we name our child. Regardless of our reasoning or motivation in choosing the name we give, the name we pick is the name that the child must have.

I am often asked where my name comes from. To this day, when I introduce myself, I get a bit tongue-tied. When I say, "Sara Esther," people assume that "Esther" is my last name. Throw in "Crispe," and they are utterly confused. When I just say "Sara" (what I was called for the first 20 years of my life), others look at me a bit strangely, wondering if I somehow forgot my name.

And then there are those who choose to use only my middle name. Problem is that I don't respond to "Esther" on its own, so more than once I have been called to the podium for a speaking engagement and sat there, looking around, wondering when this Esther was planning on responding.

For many who become Torah-observant when they are older, they choose to take on a Hebrew name, or use the Hebrew version of their English name. This wasn't my case. When I was born, I was given the name Sara Esther after my grandmother. Although she was referred to as Sally, her full name was Sara Esther.

I never used my full name, though. Growing up, the name Esther was so archaic-sounding that I was embarrassed to even tell people I had a middle name. I recall with utter humiliation when school IDs were handed out with our entire legal names. My classmates saw my full name, and "SaaarEstherrrr" was the new nickname for the year.

Little did I know that not long after, I would realize how much I needed my name. How much I needed to live up to my name.

I chose to spend my junior year of college studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was during this time that I went from one who had vowed to never practice any "ism," including Judaism, to one who was finding herself sitting in yeshivah classes and learning Torah whenever possible. I became quite close with Rabbi Moshe Schlass, a very deep and spiritual teacher who agreed to study with me weekly. And then one day, he stopped.

He said that he didn't know what was blocking me, but he felt I wasn't open or ready to continue learning and growing. I couldn't understand it. I so badly wanted to dedicate myself to exploring who I was, but at every turn it seemed that I couldn't move forward. Even when I would put on a skirt to try to dress more modestly, my friends would tug at it and ask when I was taking it off, assuming I had on a pair of jeans underneath. As hard as I tried, no one would take my search seriously.

My rabbi insisted that something was preventing me from continuing. We explored things from an emotional side, a psychological angle, and then he asked if by chance I had a middle name. We were learning about the Torah portion of Shemot, and he was explaining the importance of our names and how they embody both who we are and who we are capable of becoming.

I told him my middle name was Esther, and his face paled. "That's it," he screamed. "You are missing Esther!"

He continued to explain that I was most definitely Sara, but half of me was missing, and that half was holding me back. My name Sara is from our matriarch, Sarah, who was known for her strength and her boldness. When she saw negativity, she immediately wanted to get rid of it, and that is why she told Abraham to force Ishmael to leave. And she was right. Kol asher tomar eilecha Sarah, shema b'kolah ("Everything that Sarah tells you, you are to listen to her voice") is the directive that G‑d gives Abraham. And he did. But in the end she did not rid the world of Ishmael's negativity and evil; she only pushed it away temporarily.

Queen Esther, in our Purim story, also dealt with evil, but in a completely different way. She did not choose to call it out, but rather to work behind the scenes and ultimately allow it to reveal itself. Esther, similarly, was strong, but in a much more quiet and subdued way. Her patience and foresight is what saves the say. And in the end, she not only wiped away the evil that sought to destroy her and her people then, but this lineage was never to return.

The Kabbalistic commentaries even explain that Queen Esther was the reincarnation of our matriarch Sarah. One allusion to this is how Sarah lived for 127 years, and Esther ruled over 127 nations.

When my teacher said this, it hit home. There really was no revealed Esther in me. It was there, in potential, but hidden deep down. (Anyone who knows me knows that "patient" and "quiet" are not usually my forte.) But from that night onward, I chose to use both of my names. I was no longer just Sara, but Sara Esther. And the transition was, and still is, hard. Back then I certainly wasn't really ready for it, but felt that only through hearing my full name would I be motivated to try to use them both.

A few years later I was introduced to Asher, my future husband. At this point I had been living a completely Torah-observant lifestyle for a few years, and people no longer doubted if my skirt was a costume or not.

As I debated if this guy was possibly my soulmate, for fun one day I tried to see what my name would look like if I married him. I sat there doodling the name "Crispe," seeing if I liked the look and sound of it. But then I noticed something astounding. As I wrote my name in full, something started to reveal itself.

My name in Hebrew is seven letters: shin, reish, hei spell "Sarah," and aleph, samech, tav, reish spell "Esther." Ready for this . . . the first, middle and last letters of my name are: shin, aleph, reish, which when turned around spell "Asher." And the remaining letters when the order is changed spell hester, which means "hidden." Literally hidden within the name Sara Esther is Asher! My beginning, middle and end.

It's been almost 16 years since Asher and I married, and 20 years since I learned about the Torah portion Shemot, meaning "Names," and the importance of my name. In that time we have named four beautiful children ourselves, whom we watch in wonder as they reveal deeper and deeper levels of their names as they grow. And while this day I continue to strive and struggle in being both Sara and Esther, I look forward to seeing where my name will lead me next.


--Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and writes the popular weekly blog, "Musing for Meaning". To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here

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1
Wow
Its pretty cool that she found her husband's name in hers!
(12/30/2012 12:39:15 PM)
2
Amazing!
Rabbi Schlass just has a way of reading into people.
(12/30/2012 2:37:34 PM)
3
AMAZING!!!!
such a intresting story.
some thing that rarely happens!
(12/30/2012 4:45:42 PM)
4
Wow!
Beautiful and so inspiring!! thank you for sharing!
Yasher Koach!
(12/30/2012 6:16:55 PM)
5
GKM J
I KNOW
(12/30/2012 7:12:43 PM)
6
wonderful!
I have recently discovered this concept of deeper meanings behind the names we have and the ones we give.There are some very good websites that give the kabbalastic meanings behind names.A name is not just a name!
(12/30/2012 8:20:10 PM)
7
to #6
can you please share some of the websites.

thanks
(1/1/2013 5:36:05 PM)
8
love this essay
absolutely wonderful
yasher Koach Sara Esther!
-Rishe
(1/5/2013 11:55:20 PM)
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