16 October 2008

Naming a Jewish baby

Judaica Journal is a blog focusing on Jewish art, artists and holidays. The author spotlights some very interesting items.

Why is this blog different from all other blogs?

On all other blogs, Judaica is not featured. JJ offers collectors, shoppers, artists and wanderers alike a place to find inspiration- or simply the perfect gift. This blog will educate about the meaning of religious articles and the meaning of holidays. On JJ you may even learn to make your own Judaic items. Above all, you will share in the beauty of crafted items created under the guidance of G'd.

The most recent post is about naming a Jewish child, and spotlights Hebrew name bracelets.

Topics addressed include the spirituality of a name, Ashkenazi and Sephardi naming customs, what the Talmud says concerning naming and more.


The naming of a Jewish child is a most profound spiritual moment. The Sages say that naming a baby is a statement of her character, her specialness, and her path in life. For at the beginning of life we give a name, and at the end of life a "good name" is all we take with us. (see Talmud - Brachot 7b; Arizal - Sha'ar HaGilgulim 24b)
Further, the Talmud tells us that parents receive one-sixtieth of prophecy when picking a name. An angel comes to the parents and whispers the Jewish name that the new baby will embody.

Yet this still doesn't seem to help parents from agonizing over which name to pick!

So how do we choose a name? And why is the father's name traditionally not given to a son -- e.g. Jacob Cohen Jr., Isaac Levy III? Can a boy be named after a female relative? Can the name be announced before the Bris?

Ashkenazi Jews name after a deceased relative, which keeps the person's name and memory alive, forming a bond between the baby's soul and the namesake. The child can be inspired by the person's good qualities.

What should parents do if you want to use the name of a deceased relative, but another living relative has that name? Tradition says that if the living relative is closely related to the infant, the parents should choose another name.

However, it was very common at times for each child in a family to name a boy and a girl after the paternal and the maternal grandparents. For one of our 19th century TALALAY relatives in Mogilev (Belarus), each of eight children named a boy and a girl after the paternal grandparents. So how close is closely related? The paternal grandfather was a local famous rabbi and Talmudic scholar and several sons were rabbis. It did not seem to be a problem for them to have eight little Leibs and eight little Gittes running around at the same time.

The Sephardic tradition is to name infants after living relatives - it is considered a great honor and sign of respect.

Some names indicate a holiday around the time of the birth, such as Esther or Mordechai for a Purim baby, Ruth for Shavuot, Menachem or Nechama for Tisha B'Av. Names may be selected from the weekly parsha (Torah portion) for the birthweek.

The post illustrated Italian rubber bracelets with slide-on sterling silver letters to form Hebrew name bracelets from Alefbet.

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