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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Shelach Lecha – The Rosh Yeshiva Responds – Giving and Changing Hebrew Names

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on June 26, 2024)
Topics: Rosh Yeshiva Responds, Sefer Bamidbar, Shelach, Torah

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וַיִּקְרָ֥א מֹשֶׁ֛ה לְהוֹשֵׁ֥עַ בִּן־נ֖וּן יְהוֹשֻֽׁעַ

“And Moshe called Hoshea ben Nun, Yehoshuah” (Bamidbar 13:16).

QUESTION-Chicago

A couple, both Jewish, whose wedding I officiated at had a son two years ago. He was circumcised by a mohel on the eighth day but at the pediatrician’s office as a procedure. No ceremony took place then or afterwards. The parents now want to give their son a Hebrew name. While the naming usually happens at the brit, is there any way to give this boy a name without another ceremony? The parents very much want to connect their child more formally to the Jewish community.

New York

We have an urgent situation in which someone who is ill wants to add a name and can’t come to the synagogue. She suggested having someone in shul do it without her. What if it isn’t done in shul—can she just have a friend call her by that name?

ANSWER

Giving a name to a baby does not require a brit or a special ceremony—think of how Jewish girls are traditionally named. All that is required is that it be the name by which he is known to others. I would say that the father should get an aliyah and have the gabbai make a mishebeirach which will mention his wife and their son (by his new name). Also, if they are actually going to call him that new name in practice, just starting to do so in the presence of others will suffice.

As to adding a name or changing the name of a person who is sick—the same principle holds. As long as the new name is used publicly, that becomes the person’s name. Have the gabbai say a mishebeirach and use both her English and Hebrew name (using her English name is important so people know to who it is referring.). Let’s say she’s adding the name חיה, he would say “ הוא ירפא את החולה – Sarah Goldberg, חיה שרה בת מרים… “  (May God heal the sick person, Sarah Goldberg, Chaya Sarah bat Miriam…)  Having it done by a friend in a private setting might not be sufficient, because it does not make it a name that the community is aware of and thus it is not a name that she is known by.

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