Sunday, January 22, 2006

Parsha Chabura Shemos: The Importance Of A Jewish Name

This week's shiur was about whether one is allowed to give his child a non-Jewish name. The medrash (in Shemos Rabba and Vayikra Rabba 38) says that one of the reasons the B'nei Yisroel were redeemed was because they did not change their Jewish name. There is a machlokes haposkim how to apply that concept now-a-days

1) The Maharam Shik (Even HaEzer 169) holds that it is an issur m'd'oreisa to give a non-Jewish name based on chukas hagoyim. He feels that when the Rambam in Hil Avoda Zara write sthat it is a mitzvah to be separate from the goyim that this includes the issur of giving a non-Jewish name. It also seems clear from the context of the teshuva that to give a secular name to one who already has a Jewish name is also assur.

2) The Tzafnas Paneach (Siman 275) paskens that to give a name that is a translation of a Jewish name is not a problem. The only problem arises when you give the child a new non Jewish name.

3) Rav Moshe zt"l (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Chelek 4 Siman 66 and Chelek 5 Siman 10) writes that if the non-Jewish name has become part of Jewish culture (nisragel b'kach), it is totally mutar. For example, many names come from the yiddish language. Even though these names are not from loshon hakodesh, they are allowed to be used because they have become accepted in Jewish society. Examples of such names are "Volf", "Gittel", "Baer", etc. If thr name is not nisragel, it is not assur, but it is a "davar meguna". Also, Rav Moshe doesn't address a case where one wishes to give a secular name to one who already has a Jewish name. Furthermore, Rav Moshe adds that the medrash quoted before does not apply today. in Mitzrayim they had no milah and no Torah. There was nothing identifying them as Jewish. Therefore, they did not change their names in order that people should know they are Jewish. We don't have that problem today.

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