web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Naming Children (Part II)

Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha

Share Button

It is important to note that not all names may be designated. There is, for example, a tradition that Ashkenazic Jews do not name their children after a living person. Yet, neither the Bible nor the Talmud make any reference to this prohibition. Indeed, just the opposite. The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Sha’arei Halacha U’Minhag, Yoreh De’ah, Volume III, p.298) notes that from verses in Genesis (See Genesis 11:24-26) it is evident that Terach (father of Abraham) named his son Nachor during the lifetime of his father, Nachor.

In addition, the Talmud (Shabbat 134a) records a case of a mother concerned about the circumcision of her third son after her two older sons died as a result of circumcision. Rav Natan gave sage advice that was followed and the child lived and was named “Natan HaBavli.” The overt indication appears to be that the name given to the child after the rav was an act of honor to the rav and certainly not a sinful act.

Yet, the Ashkenazic custom to refrain from naming children after living persons prevails. The following are several rationales for such a custom (some with sources, some without). Naming a child after a living person gives the impression that one wishes the namesake were dead, chas v’shalom (B’rit Avot 8:20, cited in the name of Noheig Katzon Yosef). When a child and his/her father [mother] or grandfather [grandmother] have the same name, the Angel of Death may, by mistake, kill the younger one rather than the forebear. According to Jewish law it is not deemed proper respect to call one’s parent by his/her first name (Yoreh De’ah 240:2). Giving a child the name of the living parent or grandparent would generate confusion and a belittlement of respect (Chelkat Yaakov, Yoreh De’ah 136; Shmirat HaGuf V’haNefesh, Vol. II, 154:9).

To forestall such errors, Ashkenazim simply did not name children after a living person. Thus, concern for proper respect for parents, mysticism coupled with fear of the “evil eye” serve as the basis for the custom. There never was an official rabbinic law to outlaw naming a child after a living person. It is merely a custom that has prevailed.

Many years ago a family requested that I perform a wedding during the Nine Days leading up to Tisha B’Av. I mentioned that according to Jewish law one was not to be married during this period of time. To this they responded that they were not too religious and were not perturbed about violating the law. When I mentioned that it was deemed “bad luck” to get married at that time, they immediately changed the date for the wedding. In other words, even Jews who are not observant on a regular basis will not be involved with any matter shadowed by the curse of bad luck.

If so what is the reasoning of the Sefardim, who practice no such ban? Simply they never adopted any such customs. They follow the original tradition wherein it was completely permitted to name children after living persons. Indeed, they deem the act as a form of granting honor to parents, or grandparents.

There is, however, a rabbinic (Yoma 38b) rule prohibiting the naming of children with names of sinners or evildoers (resha’im). This prohibition has yielded two basic interpretations A simple understanding is that this is a practical means of expunging the names of Jewish sinners from usage. The implication is that there is a general ban against mentioning the names of the wicked and the practical vehicle to curtail such usage was to simply not name children after them.

Rabbenu Chananel (ad. loc.) notes that the prohibition against using the names of the wicked means that “any person so named will not be successful.” This implies a form of a curse. Any child named with the name of an evildoer will simply not be successful in life. What parent would wish to jeopardize the success of a child by disregarding the rabbinical ban? It may be assumed, without question, that parents will refuse to give children the names of sinners once they are aware of the projected doom for anyone so named. The uniqueness of Rabbenu Chananel’s position is that he introduced elements of mysticism and fear into the ordinary function of naming a child. As such, the proper name for children requires serious thought and should not be based upon whim.

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Naming Children (Part II)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The interior of the El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, Tunisia, in 2009.
Tunisian Jew Stabbed in Djerba
Latest Judaism Stories

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014). As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. On Tuesday, just as we […]

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The tendency to rely on human beings rather than G-d has been our curse throughout the centuries.

Haggadah used at the Passover Seder

“Who is wise? One who learns from each person” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

Rabbi Sacks

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

“I’ll try to help as we can,” said Mr. Goodman, “but we already made a special appeal this year. Let me see what other funds we have. I’ll be in touch with you in a day or two.”

Rashi is bothered by the expression Hashem used: “the Jews need only travel.”

Reckoning Time
‘Three Festivals, Even Out Of Order’
(Beizah 19b)

Two husbands were there to instruct us in Texas hold ‘em – and we needed them.

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

A few background principles regarding the prohibitions of chametz mixtures on Pesach may provide some shopping guidance.

According to the Rambam, the k’nas applies to any chametz on Pesach with which one could, in theory, transgress the aveirah – even if no transgression actually occurred.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Marror is the reliving of the bitter enslavement and matzah is the under-eighteen-minutes redemption.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim argues it is time for Ashkenazim to abandon the prohibition against Kitnyot. What do you think?

More Articles from Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha-NEW

Question: Have any “right wing” gedolei yisrael discussed the positive religious nature of Medinat Yisrael?

Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha-NEW

Question: Why do Jews eat fish on Shabbat?

Question: Should a Sefer Torah be covered between aliyot?

Question: In the Amidah, the phrase “Mashiv HaRuach” concludes in some siddurim with the words “umorid ha’geshem” (with a segol under the gimmel) and in other siddurim with the words “umorid ha’gashem” (with a kamatz under the gimmel). What is the practical difference between these two readings?

Question: When performing a mitzvah, what is more important: doing it right away – “zerizim” – or doing it with a large crowd – “berov am”?

Question: When performing a mitzvah, what is more important: doing it right away – “zerizim” – or doing it with a large crowd – “berov am”?

Question: How much time may lapse between Kiddush and the meal?

Question: Do Jews pray for Jewish political independence?

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/naming-children-part-ii/2013/10/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: