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How I Got My Name

So, this is where I make my confession. My name isn’t Lilit. Well, it is now, but it’s not the name that my nonpracticing-Jew father and nonpracticing-Presbyterian mother gave me when I was born. Exactly five years ago yesterday, I … Read More

By / December 24, 2008

So, this is where I make my confession.

My name isn’t Lilit. Well, it is now, but it’s not the name that my nonpracticing-Jew father and nonpracticing-Presbyterian mother gave me when I was born.

Exactly five years ago yesterday, I changed my name. I was on a birthright trip to Israel, but rather than being the beginning of my spiritual journey, tumbling toward Judaism, the trip was an important milestone along the way. I was in my second-to-last semester in college, and I’d spent the three and a half years up to that messily wading my way through Torah and The Jewish Book of Why and trying to figure out what the hell had pulled me toward this faith that was only half mine. Shortly before I left for my trip, a friend from my senior thesis seminar gave me a copy of a book she’d thought I might like. It was about female-centric religions. There was a chapter about Lilith, about her story and subsequent legends. I underlined one passage so many times I almost crossed out the line below: "It is a mistake to think that Lilith was exiled from Eden. She left, and went to find her own Eden."

It was the notion of finding my own Eden that appealed to me. Growing up in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, I watched most of the people I’d grown up with get married, stay at home, and have children. I knew I wanted something else from my life – I was planning to move to New York and try to make a living as a writer. Even though I knew plenty of other Lilith stories and had heard the tales of her as a demoness, my mind was made up. From then on, I was Lilit, even before it became official.

A friend told me once that Jewish parents supposedly get a flash of divine inspiration when they first see their child’s face, and that’s how they decide on the baby’s name. Maybe my own flash of inspiration came when I found the sentence in the book, as if the word Lilit appeared in a vision. In a way, I am my own Jewish parent.

I was formally given my name on top of Masada as the sun rose over my face. Six months later, I graduated from college. I packed up two suitcases, hopped on a bus, and went to New York. I’m still there. And that writing career thing is working out OK, too. It’s likely I would have followed the same path with my old name just as I did with my new one, but something about being Lilit gave me the courage to seek out my own personal Eden. So here I am in my own little paradise, and here I’ll be.

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