The Importance Of Names

In a 1995 lecture on Exodus 5, Dennis Prager says: Names in Bible are very important. Adam names the animals. When you name something, you are giving it essence. That’s why the Nazis took the Jews names away and gave them numbers like cattle.

My wife got very sad when one of our fish died, which was particularly funny as she had just had a tuna sandwich for lunch. I pointed out to her, ‘Fran, how sad can you get? You just had a tuna melt.’

She started laughing and crying at the same time.

I realized why she had gotten sad over the death of one of our fish. We had unwisely named our fish. If you eat a sandwich and it was really a Jerry sandwich, you were having Jerry for lunch, you’d recoil. A tuna sandwich is not a problem.

I vowed after I saw my wife’s reaction, we are no longer naming our fish. It’s a puffer, it’s a yellow tang, and that’s it. Just tonight, a yellow tang died. Nothing. Dennis, could you take that out? It’s ugly. There was no emotional connection because it was a yellow tang. Name is essence.

Look at how much thought parents give. Some do. My parents happened not to. They wanted a girl. They already had a boy. They knew they were only going to have two. They were going to name the girl Denise. That’s how I got the name Dennis. There was no other thought.

…It is totally wrong to regard G-d as just the creator of the universe who doesn’t know you. That’s equivalent functionally to atheism. A personal G-d is critical but only a personal G-d is not Jewish. It is too personally pre-occupied and does not ask the big questions [about others].

The Jew in me does react negatively when I hear non-Jews speak in America that G-d said to me, G-d told me, G-d came to me, G-d operated with this… Part of me loves it and part of me is hesitant.

One man said that the killer of Yitzhak Rabin was sent by God. How do you know?

That’s why you need organized religion or all of us will go around deeply spiritual and hearing whatever we want to hear from G-d.

The faith of the patriarchs isn’t Judaism. It’s monotheism. It isn’t Sinai. Sinai begins Judaism. How do you know that G-d didn’t say go and murder this man? Because I will give you Ten Commandments say do not murder. That’s why Abraham will go to sacrifice Isaac. There are no rules against it. We don’t have the slightest sense of hesitation by Abraham.

Spirituality without organized religion is dangerous. You hear what you want to hear.

I believe G-d has played a role in my life but in consonance with my religion.

The Muslims who go around and blow themselves up and kill as many men, women, and children as possible tell you that G-d told them. They never say, the Koran told me.

There were Nazi soldiers who went with a belt that said G-d is with us. Hitler thought he was doing G-d’s work with the Holocaust. But he never said, I read in James that one should exterminate the Jews. It’s easy to say G-d wants me to gas Jews. Find me in your religion where it says that. Religion is a brake on too personalizing G-d. Religion is the brake on self-worship.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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