As each of my pregnancies progressed, my husband and I discussed possible names for our soon-to-be newborn baby. We pored over lists, girls’ and boys’ names, as well as names of deceased relatives.

Despite our many hours of deliberation, we didn’t name any of our children after the names we had initially chosen. As each child was finally born, we looked deeply into the newborn’s eyes and just knew what the name should be.

Parents have a form of divine prophecy when they name their children. A name is intrinsically connected to the essence of the individual’s soul and is the channel through which his or her spiritual life force flows. That’s why to arouse someone from a deep sleep or even a faint, call them by name. To get a person’s full attention or affection, address him by his name.

A generation ago, the Nazis dehumanized our people by discarding our names and treating us as numbers. By robbing us of our names, they tried to rob us of our humanity.

Names are a big part of this week’s Torah portion, which is called Shemot, “Names,” and is also the title for the entire book of Exodus.

The portion starts with G‑d calling names: And these are the names of the children of Israel who came into Egypt . . . (Exodus 1:1–2)

G‑d counted the tribes again now, to express His love for them, by calling each one by his individual name. (Rashi)

The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 1:28) learns from this that the Jews in Egypt did not change their Jewish names.

Even though they assimilated into Egyptian culture, the Jews held strong to their names, language, and clothing. This steadfastness would become their weapon in their spiritual battle to preserve their unique identity as the Jewish people.

When Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter, went to bathe in the Nile, she noticed a basket floating and realized that the baby inside must be one of the Hebrew slaves.

Batya’s name means, “daughter of G‑d.” Though she was the daughter of Pharaoh who terrorized, enslaved, and murdered the Jews, Batya acted as the daughter of G‑d by risking her life to save Moses.

Batya named this Hebrew baby, Moses. Although Moses had seven different names, the name that the Torah calls him and the name by which G‑d addresses him is the name given to him by Batya, due to her selfless act.

Perhaps that’s the message of this portion and the entire book of Shemot.

To experience our own personal exodus, we need to view every person as an individual with his or her own exclusive set of struggles and challenges.

To preserve our humanity and to see another’s humanity, we must see them as a name—each one as an individual with a unique story and a unique destiny.

What’s your Hebrew name? How does it connect to your mission and individuality?