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1. Who Has the Right to Name a Child

1. Who Has the Right to Name a Child


1) Both the father and mother have the right to name their child.

2) No other person (besides the parents) has the right to name the child.

3) Regarding which of the two (the father or the mother) has the first right to name their firstborn child - there are differing customs. According to one custom, the right to name the first child belongs to the father, the name of the second child belongs to the mother, and so on, alternately.

4) Some say that this practice also fulfils the obligation of honoring one’s father, if one names his first son after his father (i.e., the child’s grandfather). On the other hand, if he fails to name the child after his father it denigrates his honor; this entails a prohibition, and he will be punished for it.

5) Some say that if one gives a name after some member of his father’s family (not necessarily after his father himself), this also constitutes honoring his father.

6) Others disagree, saying that only if the parents of the child do not have living parents, they must first name a child after his father (i.e., the child’s paternal grandfather), and not after his father-in-law (i.e., the child’s maternal grandfather). However, if the child’s parents have living parents, then the right to name the first child belongs to the mother’s family.

7) According to another custom, the right to name the first child belongs to the mother.

8) Some have the custom that the name of a daughter belongs to the mother.

9) If a child is given two names, one after his paternal grandfather, and the other after his maternal grandfather, the name of the paternal grandfather should come first.

10) If the child’s mother gives him a name, and later, the father arrives and wishes to give him a different name, some say that the father can change the name. Others say that the name given by the mother remains the authentic one, and the father cannot change it. Still others say that the father can add a name, but not change the name completely.

However, if they have suppressed the father’s name entirely, i.e., they have called the child ben …,” using the name of a man other than the father, then the name given at the bris is null and void, as if the child had been given no name at all.

11) If a girl is born, and her mother gives her a name (through her father - the girl’s maternal grandfather - who went up to the Torah and gave her the name), and the child’s father is in another place at the time (not knowing that they would give her a name), and he gives her a different name, then the name given by the father is the authentic one.

12) If the first son dies before he is given a name (i.e., before the bris), then the right to give a name [to the next child] is retained by the one to whom the right originally belonged.

13) If twins are born, and the one born first is weak, requiring his circumcision to be delayed; and the second child is healthy, and is circumcised on time; then the right to name this second son belongs to the one who has the original right (even though this child was actually born second).

Rabbi Zushe Wilhelm is the author of many compilations on Jewish law. This book with its extensive footnotes can be purchased here.
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