Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
October 11, 2004 – Number 5765-3
Brit Milah III – The Naming
A boy baby can only be named at a Brit Milah. Girls are named in synagogue, often on the first Shabbat after they are born, but it can be up to a month later if it means the mother can be at the nameing as well. A boy is never named at services.
After the circumcision, the Mohel holds the baby and a special prayer is recited where the baby is given his Hebrew name along with a blessing that he should grow in Torah, be blessed with a good marriage and live a life good deeds.
When naming any Jewish child (boy or girl), the first rule is that there are no rules. One can give the child any name they prefer. The decision on the name belongs to the parent although they may seek advice from anyone they choose. There are, however a few traditions. The most common tradition is not give a baby a name that has ritual significance to another faith. Thus Jesus, Mohammed, Buddah etc. are out. Ashkenazic Jews (from Europe) traditionally name a child after a deceased relative so that their name can live on. If the person who name is being used, died suddenly or very young, often another name is added (like “Alter” meaning “the older” or “Hiyyim” meaning “Life” or “Refael” meaning “Healing”) Sefardic Jews name their children after living relatives as a sign of honor.
A third tradition is to give the child a Hebrew name that is similar to the English name to help remember the Hebrew name in the future. Once again, I want to note that this is only a tradition, many people have Hebrew Names that have no relation to their English names at all, and some children don’t even have English names, only Hebrew names.
The Hebrew name must also carry the Hebrew names of both parents. Thus if Moshe is the son of Eliezer and Sheindle, then his name in Hebrew would be “Moshe ben Eliezer v’Sheindle. If the father has a title, it is also added, thus if Eliezer is a Rabbi, the name would be Moshe ben HaRav Eliezer v’Sheindle. If the father or mother are descended from the priests or Leviim, than this is also added to the name. For example, if the father was a Levite, than the name would be Moshe ben Eliezer HaLevy v’Sheindle. If the mother was the daughter of a priest she could carry that title too, Moshe ben Eliezer v’Sheindle HaCohenet (or HaLeviah). Fathers always past their tribe to their children. Mothers can have a tribe, but they do not pass the tribe to their children. Converts, who do not have parents with Hebrew names, are given the names of the first Jewish Parents, Abraham and Sarah.
Hebrew names are used on the naming certificate, at the Bar Mitzvah, any time the person is called to the Torah in Synagogue, on the Ketubah for the wedding, for the prayer for speedy recovery when sick and for the memorial prayer after they have died. Everyone should know their full Hebrew name and the full Hebrew name of their parents and children. Just a century ago, such information would be written down in a family bible. Today it should be written down and placed with other important papers.
The final part of the Brit Milah is the Seudah Mitzvah, the celebration of the Mitzvah. It is a special Mitzvah to celebrate with the parents of the newborn child. One should not just attend the formal ceremony, but stay and celebrate with the family by joining them in eating and drinking in honor of the baby.
Next week: Brit Milah IV – Simchat Bat