Naming Our Children: Part I

Very soon, IY”H, we will be naming our third child, whose brit milah, if all continues to go well, will be this coming Sunday AM (email me – adderabbi-at-gmail-dot-com -  to request further details and/or directions). With our older two children, we didn’t settle on a name until the night before the naming, and I suspect that something similar will happen this time as well.

Selecting a name is never easy; there are so many variables that go into finding the name that when you look at your child and say the name, you immediately think, “Yes! That’s it!” Every parent has different sensibilities and sensitivities as to what constitutes the right name, but I’d like to share the process through which we named our oldest two children and next week, IY”H, the third.

My wife and I both know TaNach pretty well, and have a preference for names that originate in TaNaCh, even if they are not names of actual people. TaNach is full of personifications of nations and cities, nicknames of people unborn, and names of people who inhabit prophetic visions but not necessarily the real world. Given the literary context and power of those names, we gravitated toward them.

Although we have relatives to name after, we won’t use a name that we don’t like, and are not averse to using part of a relative’s name and adding something of our own. The situation of the child, our personal thoughts and feelings, time of year, and momentous events affecting Klal Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael, or the whole world will all be incorporated into the decision.

Finally, though we are not opposed to double or triple names, we feel that the names, when concatenated, should make sense, and even be inspiring or prayerful.

Popular belief maintains that parents, when naming a child, are granted ‘Ru’ach Ha-Kodesh’ – some sort of Divine inspiration – to make sure that the child receives a name that is appropriate for his or her neshama. I think it’s true that there’s an ineffable intuition that parents will often experience when selecting a name, and that choosing a name is not the product of a decision process, but a discovery process. You need to get your finger on your own pulse before settling on a name. Like so much else, it’s not an automatic process; the degree to which you tap into your kishkes will affect the authentic feeling of the name.

Next Post: How we chose the name Ruchama Bat-Zion for our daughter.

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