What's in a name?
The difference one letter makes, why H is an anachronism, a poem for the "Missing H", and why any of it matters.
“There is another alphabet, whispering from every leaf, singing from every river, shimmering from every sky.”
― Dejan Stojanovic
In Genesis, when God renames her, Sarah doesn’t just go from the name she was born with (Sarai) to the name we will know her by (Sarah), she also goes from having an individual life to a collective mission. The insertion of an H into her name transforms her from a singular woman to one who will be an archetype of all women who follow.
The same can be said of Abraham (formerly Abram) who also gets an H added to his name when he receives his calling.
Why an H? I come back to this question again and again in my poems.
For now, there’s this: The shared (or doubled) H received by Sarah and Abraham underscores their connection with each other, with their intertwined destinies, and with God, whose unsayable name contains two H’s.
On a personal note, the twinned H’s remind me that my fascination is with Abraham and Sarah equally.
I am as entranced with Abraham as an exemplar of what it means to live in deep faith and to be adept at surrender, as I am with my questions about who Sarah might have been and what happens when her full story is restored to our understanding of the text.
These H’s remind me of my allegiance to a balanced feminine and masculine divinity — and one that ultimately transcends gender.
Today’s poem is for Hagar — a central, if often overlooked, player in the Old Testament version of this story.
Hagar is Sarah’s handmaiden, who Sarah will hand over to her husband to carry a child for her when she loses faith that she will ever be able to bear a child herself.
Hagar is badly mistreated in this story. But she is not a victim.
The more I learn about her, the more I come to know her as a prophet and a seer with her own powerful and intimate relationship with God.
Plus there’s this: Hagar didn’t need an H added to her name; she already had one.
“Missing H” is a short poem consisting only of words in Genesis that begin with the letter H.
Press the blue arrow to hear today’s poem, “Missing H” by Tzivia Gover. If you have trouble accessing the poem, try this link.
All material in this post and in The Life of H: Sarah, Reimagined is by Tzivia Gover, copyright Tzivia Gover, all rights reserved
Without an H
H: I’ve fetishized and poetized about this letter and its meaning in Sarah’s story. Yet, historically speaking, H (Hei in Hebrew), has no place here. It’s an anachronism…
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