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All About Jewish Names in Brief

All About Jewish Names in Brief

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Names are more than convenient labels; going by your Jewish name is a statement of pride in your Jewish heritage. The Jews of ancient Egypt, tradition tells us, kept their Jewish names. That’s one of the ways they remained a cohesive people and merited redemption.

There’s more: Your Jewish name is the channel by which life reaches you from Above. In fact, the Kabbalists say that when parents name a child, they experience a minor prophecy—because, somehow, that child’s destiny is wrapped up in the combination of Hebrew letters that make up his or her name.

Granting a name in the presence of the Torah infuses the name with blessing

A girl gets her name at the Torah reading in the synagogue. The rabbi or Torah reader recites a prayer for the health of mother and child, and the father provides the name that the parents have chosen. Since the Torah is the source of all good things, granting a name in the presence of the Torah infuses the name with blessing.

A boy is named at his brit milah (circumcision), when he enters into the covenant of Abraham and becomes a full-fledged member of the Jewish nation.

Some Details:

  • Never got a Jewish name? Converting to Judaism? Select a Jewish name that resonates with you. Often, people choose a name that is similar to their non-Jewish name in sound, in meaning, or both.
  • Traditionally, Jews name their children after relatives or holy people. Sephardic Jews will sometimes name a child after a living ancestor; not so Ashkenazic Jews. Click here for more details.
  • When we pray for someone, we have in mind that person’s Jewish name and that of his or her mother. But when we call a man for an aliyah to the Torah, we use his Jewish name and that of his father.
  • A change in name can result in a change of fortune. That’s why, if someone is dangerously ill, we might provide him an additional name.
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M L K Brockton Ma May 3, 2016

I was given a Hebrew name but some people do not have one . The only language I spoke before I went to school was Yiddish My problem was learning to speak English . Our daughter has a Hebrew name . My cousin wanted to name her son after my grandmothers Rose she named her son Richard I named my daughter Robin. Reply

Anonymous Bellevue Hill October 20, 2015

I was born to two traditional jews (who were both born frum but later became less observant). I was given a names using the initials of both my deceased grandfathers.
My father (OBM) didn't name me in shul,.
I became frum and used my middle name as my Hebrew name because it was Sharon( supposedly a jewish name) but I hated it. I grew to dislike my first name too and I felt quite 'rootless'.
I had at the time 7 children and totally committed to my jewishness. My rabbi suggested that I write to the Rebbe for advice.
On the day of my 38th birthday (both days were the same as my original birthdate) I received a fax from the Rebbe.
I had a name! My whole life changed, I needed a new Kesuva, I felt that I was now know in shemayim correctly.
Interestingly in previous correspondence to the Rebbe, he never referred to me by name only as 'your wife' to my late husband.
My parents (OBM) only called me by my new name. I was totally new. Reply

Anonymous October 20, 2015

Adam means "Red" and "Earth", not "Man"; Methuselah actually means "Man of the Spear", not "his death brings it". The latter is a myth of the Evangelical movement. Reply

Jim Stewart N Phoenix, AZ, USA via ourjewishcenter.com June 21, 2015

It seems to me that the non-Jews who began from Creation must all have significance. 'Adam obviously means "Man". Noach obviously means "rest". Methusalach means "his death brings it" - and he was translated the year before the Flood. No one disputes these meanings. But what do the other names mean in Hebrew? I would love illumination to this mystery.
As a second note, is it not enlightening to observe that Hebrew was, thus, the initial language from the Garden? The 70 nations were a confounded and fractured mess at Babel, but the original language is eternal, it seems.
Bless Hashem!
I would greatly appreciate direction regarding the meanings of those first 11 generations. Reply

saul mednick dmd Bronx May 26, 2015

do you know anyone from the town of David Harodok Reply

Anonymous Toronto January 25, 2015

Great article! Gave me an idea. What "exactly" do Nachum and Shmiyah mean?



Between you and me. Reply

12know San Jose, CA January 1, 2015

Is the last name Kosnar Jewish? My ancestors came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in the late 1870's. Reply

debbaa nebraska October 17, 2014

why did Elimelech and naomi name their children mahlon and kilion Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC April 28, 2014

Both "ben Avraham" as well as using one's mother's father's names are both commonly done when one's father is not Jewish. Speak to your local Rabbi to find out the accepted local practice. Reply

Livni April 21, 2014

If one's father is not Jewish (and therefore has no Hebrew name), does this person become "ben Avraham"? In some contexts, can the child get the name of his maternal grandfather? Reply

Gail Us March 17, 2014

My last name is Bingenheimer,which is similar to Oppenheimer and Guggenheim. Do you think this is a German-Jewish name Reply

Clint Abuja, Nigeria September 15, 2013

Shalom, I will like to know the name with the meaning "G-d has answered me". The female is "Eliana" but don't know that of the male. Thanks. Reply

Mike Mpls, n September 12, 2013

Have a Hebrew first name Shlomo, would Solomon be a name used for Shlomo in English speaking countries? Reply

Roee Connecticut June 30, 2013

I think that although the name may give the child a destiny we still have the ability to make choices with our potential. Wonderful article! Reply

Rebecca ABQ, NM via chabadnm.org December 8, 2012

How do I find out what my name signifies and its meaning. Reply

Alison Hayden Oakland, CA/USA August 10, 2012

Any word out there for the surname Ruth? Reply

Linda H Yorkshire, UK March 9, 2012

I was told when choosing my Hebrew name to give it much thought and to be prepared to become the meaning of the name. To bring the meaning of the name into lthis ife as if it were a gift.

Maybe the name you feel drawn to is calling you.

Reply

ronda MIDLAND, Tx March 8, 2012

For seven years I have wanted to change my first name to Haddasah Zion. I am not sure why but it feels very necessary to do so and very soon. I am praying about doing it on april 7th of this year. Does anyone have any insight into these names and why they feel so important to me? Reply

Bob P Sharon, Ma February 21, 2012

There are many great stories about people wanting to change their Hebrew name? What is the process for doing it? Do you need a Rabbi to approve it? Or do you just choose the name and start using it? I want to change mine for the purpose of being called to the bimah. My current Hebrew name is Tivon which I chose at my conversion 19 years ago and nobody has ever heard of that name and I want something more traditional Reply

Rabbi Menachem Posner February 7, 2012

In Jewish tradition, the family name is not terribly important. As such, the change of family name is not marked in any special way--except for the wedding itself, of course. Reply

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