The Torah portion of Shemos describes how Pharoah enslaved the Jewish people. Shemos means “names” and refers to the names of Yaakov’s children. Interestingly, our sages say that Hashem redeemed the Jewish people in the merit of three things: They did not change their names. They did not change their language, and they did not change their style of dress. On the surface, these seem to be pretty mundane reasons. But if we look closely, we’ll see that a deeper meaning is associated with them. The Alter Rebbe was once playing with his grandson. “Where’s Zaidy?” the Alter Rebbe asked. The child pointed to Rabbi Schneur Zalmen’s nose. “That’s my nose,” the Alter Rebbe explained. He then asked his grandson once more, “Where’s Zaidy?” This time, the child pointed to the Alter Rebbe’s eyes. Rabbi Schneur Zalmen corrected him. “Those are my eyes.” Suddenly, his grandson called out, “Zaidy!” The Alter Rebbe smiled and said, “Yes, what do you want to tell me?” His grandson beamed proudly, “There’s Zaidy!” This story teaches us one’s name, even a nickname, touches the person’s core, which is represented by the world of thought. Speech, specifically, the Hebrew Language also has a deeper aspect. We know that Hashem created the world through Hebrew letters, which are similar to naturally occurring stones. The languages of the nations are man-made, which are compared to bricks. The Hebrew language served to bridge the inner dimension of a person to the world around him or her. Finally, clothes communicate how the person wants to be known in society, as the expression goes, “Clothes make the man.” The Tanya teaches us that there are three “garments” of the soul: thought, speech, and deed. By retaining their Jewish names, the Hebrew language, and their style of dress, the Jews demonstrated their ability to withstand the harsh test of Egyptian exile. In that merit, they were redeemed.

– Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum