Please tell me why a Jewish name is so important. What significance does it hold?


Quite a lot, actually. For starters, we are told that parents are granted a minor degree of ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration) when they select names for their children. So it's not an arbitrary decision.

Take a look at the Hebrew word for name—"sheim." It has the same letters as the word sham—"there." Not a coincidence. A person's name tells you what's really there.

One's name is not merely a handle; it is more than a convenient tool by which he/she can be identified and summoned. It is a conduit through which G‑d provides the individual's vitality, energy and sustenance. Therefore the Talmud tells us that the great sage Rabbi Meir would "scrutinize a name" and deduce aspects of a person's nature based on the name's meaning.

Based on this concept, our sages tell us, that a change in name can result in a change of luck.1 And in accordance with this idea, an additional name is often given to one who is dangerously ill. Why should another name help—it's the same person, and the same disease? But it may be that a particular pipeline is no longer functional. In this event a name is added, to allow for a broader flow of divine energy to the affected individual.

Malkie Janowski for

Editor's note: To learn about a specific name, see Jewish boys' names and Jewish girls' names.