Times have certainly changed. Today we feel little to no embarrassment in committing our children’s Hebrew names to their birth certificates. (Biblical names have enjoyed popularity even in the non-Jewish world, as evidenced by Jacob featured as the number one boy’s name from 1999 through 2010.)
With all of the above, many of us still tend to lean towards nicknames or shortened forms of our given names, which sometimes distort them altogether. In view of how our authentic names intertwine with our spiritual essence, we may well be short-changing ourselves by assigning meaningless monikers to our entities. Before resorting to dropping one of our baby’s two given names or calling our children – the holy neshamos we were entrusted with – by popular-in-the-secular-world names such as Barbara, Hayley, Bryan or Jayson, we might want to give some serious thought to the Baal Shem Tov’s assessment on the subject:
Just like we hold on to a person physically by holding on to his body, so can we hold on to a person’s soul by calling his name. Even when asleep, the most effective way to awaken one is by calling his name.
Amazing as it may sound, the letters contained in our names influence our life force and are intrinsic to the divine purpose assigned to each of us. Used constructively, our names stand to be of great advantage to us, as well as to the world around us.