Posted by Shira Z.
What is in a name? We don’t really think about this on a day-to-day basis, but one day while I was driving some people home from school, the discussion about names came up. We began questioning, would each of us be different if we had a different name? Would our personalities or lives be different if our names were different? Many things can change about a person, but one thing that remains constant is a name. A huge impact on our lives, which we don’t even realize, is our names. Another very interesting question that came in my mind is, what is Judaism’s perspective on names? In the Jewish world, a child is given a name, a sudden identity. This name could be the one of a patriarch or matriarch, a relative that perished in the holocaust, or just a praise of G-d. A name could be anything, and in Jewish circles, the name gives a child the beginning connection with Hashem. For a girl her naming is a few days after her birth and a boy is named at his bris melah. At this point when the Jewish name is given at a few days old, the child begins their journey with Hashem. Names and their backgrounds can be seen in Tanach such as when Sarah named Yitzchak for when she found out she would be having a child at her old age, she laughed (Breshiet 21: 6). Further on, when Rivka gave birth and named Yaakov, she named Yaakov for when he was born, he came out on the “akov” or heel of Esau (Breshit 25:26). When Sarah and Rivka named their sons, they didn’t just give them random names; they gave their sons a background, which they carried with themselves for their entire life. Lisa Katz and Robbin Weiss explain that in today’s society a Jewish name is a parents hope for what their child will become in the future. Their name is a parent’s light that their Jewish lineage will continue. According to Rabbi Akiva G. Belk hebrew letters are the spiritual foundation for Hebrew names that represent the essence of what a person is and will be in this life.
In today’s modern society, the Jewish nations names stand out our names sound and are written differently. For many non-Jews can’t pronounce the “ch” sound like we can and so on. Today, even the most secular Jews still hold on to Hebrew names even if they may have an English as well. But today isn’t the only period where the Jewish nation turned to their names to keep a connection with Hashem. According to Rabbi Akiva G. Belk, when Bnei Israel was in Egypt, they fell into the 49th level, one level from the furthest from Hashem.
He writes that they “almost reached the place where they may have crossed the line that we spoke of in our study of Parshas Bo, entitled Remembering. We asked the question: "[The] point is, Can a Jew cross the line? Can a Jew reach a place where there is no point of return? Where S H U V A H does not exist?" Our sages say there were three reasons they did not fall to the lowest level, which may have prevented their return. One of those reasons was that they kept their Hebrew names. They used their Hebrew identity!”
In the past, present, and future Jewish names have and will be the source of connection with Hashem. No matter how bad things have or can become in the future, there will always be a source of Jewish identity within a Jewish name. If Jewish names kept the Jewish nation strong in Egypt, so too, when we are on the verge of assimilation, our names will always been something that can’t be taken away. No matter how hard a person wants to rebel against Judaism, their name will be their everlasting attachment to Hashem. But this being my belief, do you feel that names keep us connected to Hashem? Furthermore, without Jewish names such as Avraham, Rivka, Ahuva, etc. will the Jewish nation grow weak and cease to be a strong, religious nation?