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And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun, Yehoshuah (Bamidbar 13:16).
In the above posuk we learn that Moshe changed the name of his student Hoshea to Yehoshuah. Rashi explains that this action was a form of prayer. Moshe prayed that Hashem should save him from the evil counsel of the spies. Indeed, the new name Yehoshuah is an acronym for the phrase “may Hashem save.” It is noteworthy that with the change of name, Moshe omitted the name of Yehoshuah’s father “Nun.” We would have expected the posuk to say “And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun, Yehoshuah the son of Nun.” Yet the posuk simply concludes that Moshe called him “Yehoshuah.”
Perhaps we may suggest that this omission conveys that Moshe blessed Hoshea that he be worthy of being called by his own name rather than just the son of a great person. Great lineage is certainly an attribute. However, the best lineage is one’s own accomplishments. Moshe blessed Hoshea the son of Nun with a double blessing. The first blessing was reflected in the change of name, the second was that he be worthy of being called by his own name.
It is further noteworthy that later in the parsha the posuk refers to Yehoshuah as “Yehoshuah the son of Nun” (14:30,38). Here we see the combination of Moshe’s new name with the name of his father, Nun. We may ask, what is the significance of this?
In the beginning of parshas Vayakel, the Midrash Tanchumah says that every person has three names. The first name is that which is given by one’s parents. The second name is that which one is called by others. The third is the name that one makes for himself. The simple interpretation of the Midrash is that a person has three completely different names. However, we may ask, how is the name that one makes for himself different than the name given by his parents and the name with which he is called by others?
In our parsha we find that Yehoshuah has a total of three names. The first was “Hoshea the son of nun.” The second was “Yehoshuah,” and the third was “Yehoshuah the son of Nun.” We may suggest that these three names correspond to the three names of the Midrash. The name that his parents gave him was “Hoshea the son of Nun.” The name that he was called by others was the name that Moshe gave him “Yehoshuah.” The name he made for himself was that which the Torah calls him by “Yehoshuah the son of Nun.”
A name represents the essence of a person. Parents attempt to instill their values, beliefs and ideals in their child. This is reflected in the name that parents choose to give their child. However as a person matures and acclimates to society, he discovers his unique purpose and role. This is reflected in the name that he is called by others. At times the role that one sees for himself in society is at odds with the ideals and values instilled by his parents. The goal of man is to synthesize the name his parents have given him and the name that he is called by others. This is what it means to make a name for oneself.
This idea is seen from Yehoshuah. He was called one name by his parents, a second name by Moshe. However the name he made for himself was the synthesis of them both, “Yehoshuah - the son of Nun.” The Midrash may now be interpreted to mean that the three names are in truth one. The third name, the name that one makes for himself is the synthesis of the first two.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001