"וישמע הכנעני מלך ערד ישב הנגב כי בא ישראל דרך האתרים וילחם בישראל וישב ממנו שבי" )במדבר כא:א(
When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that the Jews were traveling on the Atarim route, he attacked them and took some captives. (BeMidbar 21:1)
Who exactly were these “Canannites” attackers? Rashi explains (following the Midrash) that they were actually Amalekites! They attacked the Jews only after changing their language to that of the Canaanites in an attempt to confuse their would-be victims. They hoped that the Jews would be fooled, and would pray that G-d deliver the Canaanites into their hands. Their prayers would then be of no value. But, fortunately, the Jews noticed that despite their enemies’ language being that of Canaan, their clothes were those of Amalek. The Jews therefore prayed that G-d redeem them from whomever they were fighting. And G-d answered their prayers.
Now, we might well ask: If the Amalekites were really trying to disguise their identity and pass as Canaanites, why didn’t they adopt Canaanite clothes as well?
The answer should make us stop and think: If the Amalekites would have adopted Canaanite clothing along with the Canaanite language, they would have lost their identity and become Canaanites themselves! Then, when the Jews would pray to G-d for victory against the Canaanites, their prayers would be effective.
The fact is that if a person changes how he speaks together with how he dresses, then his entire identity changes as well. This concept is of great importance in a number of areas, especially in parenting. A well-adjusted child must have a sense of identity, a sense of which group he belongs to. When parents are not happy with their own traditions or surrounding environment, this identity crisis will usually be passed on to their offspring as well. The child falls between the cracks, coming to feel that having no identity is better than having a double identity. Dismayed parents wonder how the child they put so much love into is still not able to find himself. But how can fruits flourish when the stem is so flimsy?
Let’s face it: The way we present ourselves to the world is not only the way we are identified by others, but also the way we come to identify ourselves. Just by looking in the mirror for a few moments, we can see what kind of self-identity we are creating. Everyday clothing affects the mindset no less than a Black Tie does at an elegant affair. This is all the more true for us Jews. If, for example, we present ourselves without a head-covering or with a gentile name, then our Jewish identity is put at a very low level on our hierarchy of values. This will adversely impact on our own Jewish identity as well as that of our children. It is no accident that we say at the Brit Milah: “ כשם שנכנס לברית כן יכנס לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים ” – Just as he entered the covenant of the Jewish Nation with G-d, so may he merit to learn Torah, marry at the chupah, and live a life of good deeds (Shabbat 137b). Notice that the word used here is כשם rather than כמו , a more commonly used Hebrew word for just as/like. One way of explaining this is that the Jewish name given at the Brit Milah endows the child with a Jewish identity right from the start. As the boy reaches and faces future stages of life, however, it sometimes happens, unfortunately, that Mordechai becomes Max, Chaim changes to Victor, and Shmuel turns into Sam. The name change may herald – and certainly reinforces – a change in identity. For this reason, we say כשם …, not .…כמו We mean not only just as, but also: just like the name. We pray that the little Mordechai, Chaim, or Shmuel should be able to proudly keep his Jewish identity throughout all the stages of life. We pray that G-d give him the courage to face his future maintaining the identity that meant so much to his ancestors throughout Jewish history.