When you work with dreams, those curious “things” that the imagination dreams up, you expect to find out some insights, even very deep insights, into who you are. But to find out that you’re not who you are, but that you’ve become someone else—who knew?
A person’s name is determined by his mission in life. This is the perspective of traditional Judaism (and other paths as well). Parents, whether they realize it or not, whatever conscious rationale they may have for choosing the name for their child, are being guided to choose what they do.
What happens if a person completes her mission before her destined time arrives? Traditional Judaism posits that she must get a new name. Otherwise, she will leave early. We can call someone by a new name, but the name won’t catch—he won’t live—unless Heaven gives him a new mission. (In case you’re wondering, two people can have identical names, but still have different missions.)
My original name was “Ozer,” Hebrew for helper, assistant. My new name, Elazar, means God helps.
So, a few years back I’m minding my own business, maybe fulfilling my life’s mission, maybe not, and along comes an operation. Not strictly necessary, but one that will prevent things from getting worse, God willing. They call it “minor surgery,” but that’s a misnomer. Minor surgery is surgery the other guy is having. When it’s your body they’re slicing open, it’s major.
My rabbi says the best way to deal with the situation is by having an operation, but… . Hoping to prompt him to finish, I ask, “But what?” If I don’t change my name, he says, I’ll die on the operating table. “Well, if you put it like that.” He suggests the name, Elazar. I always liked that name, so I run with it.
Even though the surgeon admitted that he botched the operation—no harm done, but the problem is not gone—I’m alive and well. Shortly after that I start re-living my dreams with Keren (my Natural DreamWork practitioner). Caves and cakes, cardboard parents, pools of water, riding many a subway and walking barefoot over all kinds of surfaces taught me a lot about myself, often more than I cared to know.
This goes on for a couple of years and then one night, I spend a dream with some young’uns:
I’m with a group of people, one a little boy, aged 5 or 6. We’re walking in what appears to be a well-known, large, grandly appointed synagogue, here in Jerusalem. The boy says, “Wooow.”
Then I’m with an 8 y.o. girl. It seems she is part of the above group or the sister of the boy. She asks my name and when I tell her, “Ozer,” she makes a face and says, “What kind of name is that?” Her facial expression is one of clear disgust.
Re-living this one with her, Keren points out that they are tag-teaming me. The boy is telling you something that you won’t admit to yourself: You love grandeur! The big and majestic: these are part of you. “The girl is asking you—challenging you, really—’Why are you making yourself small?’ In other words, it’s time for a change of focus; go from being a background helper to stepping up and leading.”
Naturally, an “invitation” to make such a shift caused me some fright. I thought: What? Give up 60-plus years of identity, my personal “brand”, because some eight-year-old dream-figure doesn’t like my name? You’ve gotta be kidding! Besides—it’s scary to become someone new and different.
On the other hand, it was clear to me that the boy and girl dream-figures are what we NDWs call imagoes, dream “embodiments” of our true selves. Such a meeting was a sacred encounter; it couldn’t be ignored.
I told the dream to my rabbi. Yes, he said, it’s time to fully change your name, now. The woman, Keren, was correct: Heaven sent you a pure, innocent messenger to tell you, in no uncertain terms, what you have to do: become a new person. Take on your new mission.
And so, I have. I cannot quantify the change, but I know that my regard for people has taken such a quantum jump I thought my heart would burst from all the new people it now contains. Thank God it has not.
Elazar Bergman was introduced to the awe and power of dreams at an early age. Having never lost sight of the innervision they afford, he is thankful to have discovered a dreamy way to part the darkness and explore the capacity of the soul. Since the early ’80s Elazar has been teaching and mentoring people as old as four and as young as eighty. He is the author of Where Earth and Heaven Kiss, a guide to Rebbe Nachman’s path of meditation. A graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and an ordained rabbi, he and his wife live in Jerusalem, the Heart of the Universe. He teaches, mentors and does Natural DreamWork via Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, WhatHaveYou. He can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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