Regardless of whether you spell your name, Jaffe, Joffe, Yaffe, Yaffee or any iteration of the above, the fact is that the Hebrew original was written יָפֶה and pronounced Yo-feh.

The family traces its lineage to Rabbi Elchanan Yaffe of Dampierre, a 12th-century rabbi who is a great-great grandson of Rashi and contributed toward the commentary on the Talmud known collectively as Tosafot (additions).

This name literally means “beauty.” Indeed, the most prominent member of this family, from whom many contemporary Jaffes draw their lineage, was said to be exceedingly beautiful.

Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe, who passed away in 1612 in Posen, Poland, was an outstanding halachist, whose works have become a pillar in Ashkenazi tradition. He is popularly known as “the Levush,” since his many writings each incorporated the word levush (literally “garment”) in their titles.

Rabbi Mordechai was so physically attractive that he once drew the unwanted attention of a certain non-Jewish noblewoman with whom he had had business dealings. When he came to bring her some merchandise, she locked him in her mansion and demanded that he sin with her. With great ingenuity, he managed to escape through the latrines. He was unhurt, but his clothing was covered with filth. As a Divine reward, says the Chofetz Chaim, he merited to write works of Torah titled Levush (“Garment”).1