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Why bother with a Hebrew Name?

Saturday, 29 December, 2018 - 6:27 pm

Nametag.pngDo you like the movies of Issur Danielovitch Demsky (Kirk Douglas)? Were you fascinated by the tricks of Ehrich Weiss (Harry Houdini)? Did you enjoy Lawrence Harvey Zeigler Live on CNN (Larry King)? Do you like any of the films directed by Allan Stewart Konigsberg (Woody Allen)?

The short list of famous personalities who have stage names which are different than their original names is part of a much longer list of many people that have spanned recent American History. The truth is, that some of them might actually have three layers to their names, as their Hebrew names may not have been part of their original legal name, but one that was given at birth and used at the Synagogue or for other ritual and religious purposes.

Many of us though might only have two layers to our names, which might be our legal name and our Hebrew name we were given at birth at the Brit Milah for a boy or at the Torah for a girl.

On the topic of names, sure it has been a part of Jewish culture and tradition to give a Hebrew Name, but is it really as important as it is made out to be and why is this something that has stuck with us throughout our long history?

The History of Hebrew Names

If we look back at the history of names in the Torah, each name given to a person that had a close relationship with G-d, was a name given with meaning and a message. A name was never looked at as a technical procedural thing, rather it was understood to be something that would inherently express who the person was and the potential that they had.

Some people even had their names changed midway through their lives, like Sarah, who was formally Sarai, Abraham, who was formally Abram, Yisroel who was formally Jacob (but continued to use both names), Joshua who was formally Hoshea and many others. Each time, the name change was never a random occurrence, rather it was due to a change in life or the beginning of something new that the new name would reflect or be the conduit for.

Who Chooses the Name?

In fact in the Jewish tradition, the giving of the Hebrew name is not considered a technical formality, rather it is something that is chosen by the parents, as they are the ones who are endowed and gifted with the spiritual intuition as to what this new soul entrusted to them is about. It is therefore not the job of the Rabbi, in-laws or grandparents to dictate the name, rather it is specifically the parents who are endowed at that moment with the ability to give their child a name that will reflect their spiritual core and potential.

Additionally the Talmud states, that one of the qualities among several others which the Jews in Egypt held onto despite the terrible slavery and persecution, was their commitment to continuing to use Hebrew names despite their giving up on so many other things that were dear to their faith and tradition. This is not viewed simply as a simplistic thing, rather it is considered to be one of the crucial elements that enabled the Jews to remember who they were and what they were to be about, despite the hundreds of years of hardship and suffering.

Lastly, a Hebrew name is sourced in the Hebrew language which is also referred to as the Holy Tongue, the language that G-d communicated to us with. Therefore Jewish mysticism explains that a Hebrew name is something that can actually serve as the conduit for our spiritual blessings and potential as well as one that reminds us of our inner spiritual core as we go through life.

So yes, let’s continue to make sure every Jewish child is given a beautiful Hebrew name and is able to have many opportunities to use it. Doing so, is not just preserving an old ritual, rather it is actually empowering them to use their names as a reminder for their inner purpose and responsibilities in life, and a tool that will enable them to tap into their inner soul so that they can develop it’s inherent potential for blessing and growth.

If you for whatever reason, you do not yet have a Hebrew name and would like to have one, please let me know and I would be happy to discuss with you how we can make one happen.

Shabbat Shalom


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