The Blessing of a Name

For the Naming and Blessing of Robert Loewenberg Block

Sermon given March 10, 2000, by Rabbi Barry H. Block

M’kor Hayyim,
O God,
Source of life,
Toni and I come before You this Shabbat,
our hearts full of joy,
our lips giving thanks.

We stand before You,
in awe of our the power You have implanted within us,
to make new life
with our love.

We stand before our Temple family,
grateful for loving support,
for prayers and good wishes,
for so generously sharing our joy.

We stand before family and friends,
blessed by the intimate circle,
sharing our life,
loving our child.

We stand before our parents,
thankful for their devotion from the days we were born,
understanding better now
what they have always felt for us.

We stand before one another,
pledging to renew our marriage daily,
to sustain one another and our child
in love.

We stand before our son,
praying that we may raise him with wisdom,
with patience,
with faith in the future.

Tonight, O God,
through Your servant,
Rabbi Samuel Stahl,
You have offered our son
a blessing and a name.
May his name be a blessing
every day of his life.

Through Your sainted rabbis,
O God,
we have been taught:
“Each of us has three names:
The name our parents give us;
The name others call us;
The name we acquire for ourselves.”
Satisfy Toni and me,
that we have given him a name that will bring inspiration
throughout our son’s life.
Grant that Robert’s friends and neighbors
may judge him gently,
that the names others call him
would make his parents proud.
Endow Robert with the wisdom of Torah,
with love and the performance of good and noble deeds,
that the name he makes for himself
be his crowning glory.

O God,
as Robert’s parents,
Toni and I have given him many names.
We pray that he may draw meaning
from each and every one.

May he rejoice in being Robert,
keeping alive the memory of his mother’s Uncle Bobby.
Let him savor the savvy that brought success
to Robert Whitebloom,
cherished son,
beloved brother,
political attorney of Chicago renown.
May Bobby Whitebloom’s memory
ever be a blessing
to our own little Robert.

Let Robert find the luster in his middle name,
Let him learn of his Mississippi Jewish family,
of the sterling reputation earned
by valuing goodness over gold,
in good times and bad.
As he shares two of the names
of his great-grandmother Yaya,
Sabina Loewenberg Block,
so may he share her boundless capacity to love.

When called to the Torah,
Robert will be Boaz Alon.
May this Hebrew name
encourage him to inquire
of the life of another great-grandmother,
Bertha Alyce Shlenker,
intrepid as she was intelligent,
philanthropic as she was flamboyant,
a woman of unique power and positive influence.
Like the Bible’s Boaz,
may our son be a mensch.
Like an alon,
a tree,
a Texas live oak,
May our Robert be ever vibrant.

Dear God,
Toni and I have bestowed these names upon our son.
May we continue to consider carefully
the gifts we may offer him as he grows.
Help us, too,
to recognize our limitations as parents.
We have given him these names,
but You instruct us:
We shall not be Robert’s only source,
of blessings or of names.
Others will name him, too;
He will make a name for himself.

Make our hearts soar,
O Lord,
as we hear
of our son:
He is a sweet baby,
an adorable child,
an excellent student,
a fine young man,
a loyal friend,
a dedicated worker,
a devoted spouse,
an attentive father,
a dutiful American,
a good Jew,
a worthy citizen of the world.
Grant him the grace
to bear these titles humbly,
not becoming arrogant,
but aspiring to new heights.

There will be days,
we know,
when others will judge him harshly,
calling him names
we would not wish to hear.
Help him to understand
that he is neither as good,
nor as bad,
as the names others call him,
but strengthen him to learn from every person,
to grow from a loving rebuke,
to shrug off an undeserved insult.

Teach Robert,
O God:
if he is a student of Torah,
a lover of humanity,
a doer of good deeds;
if he is a servant of the House of Israel,
a steward of the Earth,
a builder of a better tomorrow for all;
then others will call him blessed,
for he will have made a good name for himself.

What name shall Robert acquire,
from his own learning,
his own choosing,
his own actions,
his own passions,
his own career,
his own friends,
his own loving partner,
his own mitzvot,
his own relationship with You,
O God?
Let us,
his mommy and daddy,
teach him well,
and let us grow old,
his mother and dad,
watching and listening,
as he becomes who he will become,
making a name for himself.
O God,
Let that name be worthy;
Let that name be good;
Let that name be a blessing.

O God,
the name Robert makes for himself
shall be eclipsed,
we know,
by the name You will give him.
As you have sustained us to reach this joyous occasion,
and brought him into the world with love;
As you have granted him a blessing
and received his name this Shabbat;
so may You
help him,
guide him,
be with him,
even when we can not be there,
especially when we can not be there.
Let him live in a world of peace.
Inspire him to become Your partner
in making the more perfect world of our messianic prayers.

may he reach the end of his days,
at the age of 120,
his body strong,
his mind clear,
and his faith in tact;
grateful for the gift of life,
loved by his family and friends,
and embraced by You, O God, in eternity.

Then, may his name be a blessing.