Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 16 May 2009 / 21 Iyyar 5769

Name Withheld

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

From: Anonymous

Dear Rabbi,

I have been religious for sometime now. In fact, I have been shidduch dating for what feels like too long. I’m wondering if my Hebrew name has anything to do with the delay. You see, growing up, in Sunday school, I used a particular Hebrew name and that was the name I used for my bar mitzvah. When I became religious, after not having used that name for many years, I started using it again socially and also for aliyas to the Torah. At some point, my mother found my “bris” certificate by a kosher mohel and the name I have been using, while similar to the original name, was/is a different name (not like Eliyah and Eliyahu). Also, the original name is comprised of two names but the adapted name is only one. So, my question is, is the fact that I’m still using the adapted name a reason for nuptial delay and should I revert back to my original name? What about the fact that I’ve been using the other name for so long (although not so frequently)?

Dear Name Withheld,

According to Jewish sources, despite the fact that prophecy has ceased in general, there are still some residual situations and people in which inklings of prophecy appear. One of them is regarding parents’ naming their children. So a Jewish name given at birth, and particularly at the circumcision, is very significant and contains within it a Divinely inspired connection to the person’s spiritual essence. In addition, such a name expresses and enhances the unique qualities and powers of the individual, forming a type of aura that accompanies a person through life. It is for these reasons that it is so important to give traditionally acceptable names of righteous and holy people or things.

Since a person’s essence and even purpose is expressed and enhanced by one’s name, and so much of realizing the potential of this essence and purpose depends on finding one’s soul mate, there is definitely a relationship between names and nuptials. This means that if the right name is withheld, the right shidduch might also be withheld.

In your case, since you now know the name given to you at your circumcision, you must use this name (comprised of the two original names written in the certificate), which is your unique name. From now on you should be called up to the Torah with this name, this is the name you should use socially and this is the name that should be written in the ketuba, G-d willing.

Regarding the other name, since you say it is similar and refer to it as the adapted name, I assume it is either a variation of one of the original names, or very similar to it (perhaps the exact original was forgotten and then remembered as the substitute like Shalom and Shlomo). In either case, the adapted name was used by mistake in lieu of the original and not with the intention to change or add on to the original, so it need not be used any further. If for whatever reason you want to keep that name, (and Providence may have had a role in the mix-up), it is possible to add it to the original. Since this would involve having three names, and in any case your question is complex, you should only do this with the guidance of a Rabbi who is well-versed with names and their meanings and influence.

I’ll conclude with the following story:

There was a young man in the yeshiva who had a situation very similar to yours. When he arrived he used the name he had used in Hebrew school, which he thought was his name from his circumcision. He eventually started shidduchim, but despite the fact that he was bright, witty and good-looking, he dated many women over a relatively long period of time but didn’t have any success. One Shabbat afternoon he attended the talk of a particular well-respected rabbi and kabbalist. Seemingly out of nowhere the rabbi made the following comment:

“There is a blessing customarily said at the circumcision that goes: ‘Just as this boy has entered the covenant, so may he enter Torah learning, the chupa and good deeds’. The Hebrew for “Just as” is “k’Shem” which literally means “as the name”. From here we see that the name given at the circumcision accompanies, and is an integral part of, the person’s growth in life. A person therefore must be careful to “take his name” into the Torah, under the chupa and into his good deeds, in that order.”

The young man couldn’t believe his ears. Just a week earlier his mother had found his “circumcision certificate” showing that his real name was similar to, but different than, the name he had been using. Before he “happened” to drop into this rabbi’s talk he didn’t intend to use this newly-found name because he didn’t like it as much as his adapted name. But he understood from the rabbi’s words that withholding his circumcision name might further withhold his entering the chupa. Within a week of announcing his “new” name he met the woman who became his wife.

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