The name given to a newborn child is eternal; it behooves one to evaluate the choice carefully.
-from Rabbi Pesach Krohn’s book Bris Milah (from the Artscroll Mesorah Series).
Since we just made a bris for our new son yesterday, I thought it would be appropriate for this week’s Torah Tuesday to write something concerning this special life-cycle event.
Some of my friends who are less familiar with Jewish customs asked me why I hadn’t announced the baby’s name when I posted on Facebook that we had had a baby boy. Our custom is not to name a baby boy until the eighth day of his life, when we perform the bris milah ceremony. This caused much consternation among the hospital staff, since the hospital’s policy is not to let the child leave until a name has been selected and the appropriate form filled out. I was warned by a very well-meaning staff member that if I neglected to turn in the form, our baby would be nameless on his birth certificate. He would forever remain Baby Boy Silver. At least three other staff members either reminded, asked or warned me about our baby’s lack of a name. Some were hip to the Jewish connection, some didn’t seem to care. All of them just wanted that form filled out.
At Little Man’s bris, the Rav who spoke claimed that we had picked “the Cadillac of names.” We had chosen the name Moshe, after the greatest of our prophets (Moses, that is). More than a few people have commented that we gave him awfully big shoes to fill (he’s doing a great job so far!). Amusingly, Moshe wasn’t even on the list of name that we were considering. It’s a relatively common name, and my husband and I were looking at slightly less popular names. However, when I looked at Little Man for the first time, I realized that the name we had selected was not going to work at all. It was a strange experience, since I’m not typically an intuitive type, but I just felt that the name was not right for our child. It took us a few days, but we eventually settled on Moshe, and it’s so appropriate!
Why the deliberation? Is it really such a big deal? Well…
In Judaism, a name is not merely a conglomeration of letters put together as a convenient way to refer to someone. Ideally, it is a definition of the individual – a description of his personality and an interpretation of his traits. It may even be a portent of the person’s future, or perhaps a prayers that the person bearing this particular name shall live up to the potential expressed in the name.
So the name really makes a difference. It’s not just something that sounds good to the parents, or something to put on that form. It is a decision imbued with meaning, and will affect the child’s life. But, hey, no pressure.
For Really Little Man, we didn’t spend as much time discussing names, on account of the Moshe-naming incident previously experienced. Shortly before his birth,we discussed relatives who we could name him after, and names that related to Sukkos, the holiday that the baby would most likely be born around (or potentially on). Why these specific considerations?
There is a spiritual connection between the name of an individual and his soul . . . When a child is named after the deceased, the latter’s soul, which dwells in the World of Truth, is aroused. A spiritual affinity is thus created between this soul and that of the newborn child which has a profound effect on the child. Additionally the departed soul is itself exalted when the name it bore on this world is again used.
It is indeed customary to name a child in relation to a Jewish holiday or commemorative event that coincides with the child’s birth.
After some general discussion, there were a couple of names which appeared suitable, so I kept them in mind. After Really Little Man was born, I saw that the names were going to work out. So we are proud to introduce David Eliezer!
We chose the name David after King David, who is associated with the holiday of Sukkos. During the blessing after meals on Sukkos, we insert a line which says: “May the Merciful One raise up for us the fallen sukkah of David.” Okay, I really don’t know what that means, but the name David is right there. Eliezer is the Hebrew version of my husband’s great-grandfather, Leizer (that’s a Yiddish name). I’m planning on using both names, though my husband is still debating if it’s too many syllables to say at once.
And don’t worry, we filled out the form for the hospital and my husband took it to work with him yesterday.
20 thoughts on “Torah Tuesdays – What’s in a name?”
Not only is it in the grace after meals, but it’s also in sefer Amos. :)
Great name and super-cute picture! He looks a lot like his brother!
Nice! Thanks for the additional name reference! He does look like his brother, and yet somehow he also looks different. It’s so interesting how all those genes come together into cute little bundles.
It is a name which suits him great! Welcome to David Eliezer.
Thank you! I thought of you when I realized that I didn’t take one picture at the bris. Ha!
That’s interesting that you didn’t put his name on the birth certificate before the bris. We put the name down but didn’t tell anyone else what my baby’s name would be. I think there’s something about not telling anyone beforehand (because of an ayin hara) but if the hospital has to know for technical reasons (or for the birth certificate) then it’s okay.
Mazel tov on the bris! You chose a really beautiful name – if it feels like it’s too long to say, you can always do a nickname or shorten it, but it’s nice to start out with the full name. It’s also special to be able to name after a relative – may he follow in the footsteps of his namesakes!
I think the “sukkah of David” is a reference to the bais hamikdosh and we are praying for the day to come when it will be rebuilt. Either way, David is one of the seven ushpezin, guests that come visit the sukkah during the holiday of succos – so that is a definite connection to the special time in which he was born!
Enjoy him and feel good!
I’m not sure why we don’t put the name down. Maybe because with Moshe we changed our mind, and it would be annoying to have the wrong name on the birth certificate! Thank you for the divrei Torah on the name, it’s so nice!
I love when there is a history behind the name given, and the custom. Thanks for sharing that!
Times have definitely changed. I was released from the hospital even though I didn’t have a name for a week, but it was because my parents had 4 girls before me and couldn’t agree on a name for the fifth one. Being of Irish heritage (and my husband Italian,) it is customary to name your children Irish/Italian names, or biblical names. We did both – and gave our children names which would be considered “traditional” as opposed to some of the “trendy” names given to children today.
P.S. Thanks for not “outing” me on your blog. Tee hee!
I like the traditional as opposed to trendy name choice. Call me old-fashioned. And you weren’t the only one who was wondering about the name thing; you were in good company!
I believe sukkah of david isalso referringto the sukkahof leviatan,which we’ll meritto sit in at theend of days. May david eliezer bring youlots of nachas and may you raise him to torah,chuppah,and masiem tovim.
Thanks for the additional info on the name, and Amen!
Mazel tov! May you have much nachas from David Eliezer! It was really interesting to read all the Torah thoughts behind choosing a name.
Thanks! Amen! Rabbi Krohn’s book is full of interesting information about the ceremony, minhagim, and really anything related to making a bris. It was interesting to learn.
What a strong and meaningful name. May he wear it well as he is brought to Torah, chuppah, and a life of good deed. Mazal tov!
Thank you, and amen!
Mazel Tov! I just followed a link to your blog and so far I’m enjoying reading it! I just had a new son in August – we named him Shimon Yonah, and we call him Simon. :)
Thank you, and welcome! Mazel tov to you, too! The name Simon is such a nice name. Is he named after anyone?
He’s darling. Congratulations to you and hubby.
Thank you so much!
He’s BEAUTIFUL!! Sigh. A wonderful name for a blessed baby.
(We had an interesting battle of names with our second. Like you, a completely random name popped up one day and we realized it matched our son.)
Thank you. Isn’t it a funny thing about names?