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.