|My Name Is: Alexander Cohen|
Moshe Cohen, Abraham Cohen, and Jacob Cohen all have Jewish names. What about Alex? Sounds Greek to me. Heres our tradition.
Alexander The Great was on his campaign to conquer Darius of Persia. He sweeps through Israel and asks the Jews for their assistance. Being loyal subjects of the Persian Empire, they have no choice but to refuse. He swears to take revenge and he then continues on to defeat Darius. On his return, the elderly sages of the Jewish people come out to greet the new Emperor, seeking to beg forgiveness and mercy. They are led by the High Priest, Shimon HaTzadik (Simon The Pious), who was adorned with the garments of his office.
As soon as Alexander catches sight of Shimon HaTzadik, the most startling thing occurs. Alexander descends from his royal coach and bows down to the ground before the High Priest. He afterwards explains to his astonished generals and officers that the image of this holy person had appeared to him during his battles and it led him to victory. The crisis was over.
Well not yet.
Before taking leave from his new subjects, he requests that they adopt a practice which he established in the other provinces that he conquered. Alexander asks them to install his statue in the Holy Temple. He either did not know or he did not appreciate that our doing so would compromise religious practices which preclude us from having graven images, especially in the Temple.
So how do we get out of this one?
G-d provided Shimon HaTzadik with the wisdom to give the following response:
"Oh Mighty Emperor, of what shall we make this statue from? If we make it of metal, it shall someday rust. If we make it from wood it shall someday rot. Statues of stone become covered with pigeon waste. As the Emperor can see, throughout our land we have no images, due to religious guidelines. Permit us to provide a substitute that will endure for eternity.
"What do you suggest?" asked Alexander.
"We shall make a decree that every boy born this year in Israel shall be named Alexander.
"Great!", said Alexander the Great.
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