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What Does the Name Rebecca Mean?

What Does the Name Rebecca Mean?



What is the meaning of my name, Rebecca?


Rebecca, or Rivka in Hebrew, was the second matriarch of the Jewish nation. Although she grew up in Padan Aram, amongst pagans, she remained righteous and pure. Our sages applied to her the verse (Song of Songs 2:2): “As a rose among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters.” She married our patriarch Isaac, and gave birth to Esau and Jacob. It was she who orchestrated Jacob’s obtaining Isaac’s blessings (as described in Genesis 27).

Most importantly, as one of our matriarchs, her character is part of the spiritual genes that make us who we are.

Although the meaning of her name is not explained in the Written Torah, the Mishnah in tractate Eruvin uses the word revakot, the plural of rivkah, to describe “teams of cattle.”

The chassidic masters explain that becoming a “team of cattle” is a very Jewish aspiration, one that we can accomplish only because of the special soul-powers with which Rebecca endowed us all. We all have two distinct souls and consciousnesses animating our bodies: an “animal soul” and a “G‑dly soul.” The animal soul is driven by self-centeredness; the G‑dly soul, by the selfless quest to serve the Almighty.

Each of these souls has its own intellectual and emotional faculties, from creative wisdom to focused concentration, from discipline to loving and generous kindness. The difference is that all the emotional faculties of the G‑dly soul are dominated by the mind. As such, notwithstanding their extreme differences, the emotional faculties work together in harmony; they complement each other. Wisdom engenders compromise and cohesion. The animal soul, by contrast, due to its self-centered nature, is dominated by its emotions and impulses. Each one of these emotions operates independently of the others; they do not complement each other to work as a cohesive whole.

This condition, however, is not unchangeable. The mission of the G‑dly soul is to channel and focus the animal soul’s emotions toward its—the G‑dly soul’s—interest, the service of G‑d. (For more on this topic, see The Wild Horse.) When this is achieved, these formerly independent animalistic emotions can now unite, forming a harmony, or in the words of the Mishnah, “a team of cattle.”

This ability, writes Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, is the gift bequeathed by Matriarch Rebecca to her offspring—every child of the Jewish nation.

The fact that you were given this name indicates that you have tremendous potential, the ability to live up to your namesake. Yes, we all are Rebecca’s children, but an individual who carries her name has a greater measure of her unique strength. Start now, by adding one more mitzvah to your daily schedule, transforming darkness to light, divisiveness to unity.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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Anonymous October 3, 2017

Thank you for explaining the meaning behind "cattle"! I've always wanted to know what cattle had to do with my name, so thank you! Reply

coralie henley Elizabeth nth s.a. March 14, 2016

Hi my favorite name has always been Ruth my daughter has the name of Rebecca named by her father Reply

Anonymous Bad Axe, Michigan, USA July 30, 2015

It is a nice name for me, I guess. Reply

rebecca waco November 21, 2014

I am very happy and proud of my name. Reply

Rebecca December 16, 2013

My name is Rebecca and I'm glad my parents named me Rebecca, I never hate my name and I'll never change it. Reply

Rebecca pacheco November 4, 2012

Rebecca I am also proud to be named Rebecca ,even though I am not Jewish. My parents loved the G-d of Israel. Duet. 6:4 Hear, O Israel:The Lord our G-d is one Lord. They understood there are not three but one G- d. Maybe Martinez is Jewish? Reply

orna toronto, canada November 16, 2011

ryvka my mother's name is ryvka, and although she says she never really liked her name, i knew that rebecca the matriarch is truly her namesake. My mother is strong and generous, gracious and true. i am proud to have a mother named ryvka! Reply

rebecca October 9, 2011

rebecca my name is rebecca and i wouldn't change if for the world my mother and father told me what they were going to call me and i'm glad they didn't as it means so much but i do shoten it down to becky a lot as it is easier it is nice to see i'm not the only one who likes my name. i also have a mate who's name's rebecca she also love's her name

Rebecca Australia, Qld July 5, 2011

Rebecca My name is Rebecca and i have always felt there were two sides to me, i am a strong and capable mother of 6 married 18 yrs, i am also a God fearing woman. I never liked my name until recently and now I believe it is a part of God's hand on my life. I appreciate your explaination, this has inspired me, thankyou. Reply

Anonymous Cincinnati, Oh June 13, 2011

My name is Rebecca All my life I wished my name had been spelled (Rebekah), why wasn't that spelling mentioned in the hebrew explanation? Reply

Anonymous November 7, 2010

name my name is rivka and i need to know what it means for a project! on a different website it said that it means captivating but here it doesnt say that - which is it? Reply

Rivqah Scherr February 6, 2010

Rivqah This is my name too. Very interesting article. I had never heard this interpretation before. Hopefully this will inspire me to be a better live up to the meaning of my name. Reply

BAG TX October 26, 2009

Rebecca Yes it is hebrew and it means to tie and it is a girls name. Reply

Chaya Rivka April 1, 2008

Thank you, very inspiring. Reply

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