At 42, I studied to become a bat mitzvah. At that time, the Rabbi asked me if I want to change my name to reflect the moment. I thought about it as I had never really connected to my Hebrew name Leah. As a believer that there are no coincidences and out of respect for my parents, I chose to keep my name. The day was powerful enough as I released years of "missing out" when I read a few short lines of Torah surrounded by family and friends.
Curiosity of my name continued and I wanted to know, "Who was Leah?" All I had read was the sad beginnings of her story, she had dim eyes, married a man who loved her sister, and she wanted her husband to love her. And then I began to learn a little more about her. With the birth of each child, Leah's spirituality grew. Her desire to be loved by her husband was great, but it was her deepening connection to God that grew over time and drew me closer to her.
"The Rabbis are lavish in their praise of Leah. She was like the rafter of a house, on which the entire world rests; she was a prophet, and the names she gave her sons allude to each tribe’s future. The midrash asserts that from the day that God created His world, He was not praised by anyone until Leah came and said (Gen. 29:35): “This time I will praise the Lord.” This act was a positive example for her offspring, who learned from it, followed in her ways and also praised the Lord. " JWA - Leah Midrash
I was happy to read this passage. It states that Leah was the first to be written as one who praises God and she was a role model to her children. While I too felt a deeper connection to something greater than myself after my children were born, I also became more vulnerable. Following the birth of my second child, I worried about the world we lived in and had serious anxiety about my children's future. Working in the Jewish community gave me a sense of purpose and allowed me to feel as though I doing my part to solving some of our community's problems. And then with time, I found Jewish meditation and Torah study. It is how I learned to pray. It became my way to "praise God." My spirituality, my curiosity and my love of Judaism grow as I continue to devote my life to our community. And it gives me even greater pride and joy that my children want to share this with me.
Through my work in the Jewish community and my commitment to our Jewish life, I have found a way to be Leah. I have a lot more research to do about my name and today I am proud to continue sharing it with our matriarch.