A name can be the single most important word in a person’s entire life. In many instances a name is connected to one’s identity, and it’s a word that follows a person from birth until death, and sometimes many years or decades beyond. Jewish couples face the daunting task of deciding whether their baby will have a Hebrew name as their singular name. Some couples decide to give their baby a Hebrew name, that their child can use for the many religious events of their life. The Hebrew name is typically used when a child attends Hebrew or religious school, or when they are called up to the Torah during their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. The name that one is given, is considered a very special milestone in the Jewish faith and something that should be given a lot of care and thought when deciding which name to give a baby. The parents also may elect to give their child a secular name that has no particular connection to Judaism, in addition to a Hebrew name.
Many Jewish scholars believe that this is a way for parents to show their love for their children, by picking the right Hebrew name for their child. There are two different traditions that are regularly employed when selecting a Hebrew name for a baby. Ashkenazi Jews, are Jews who have roots of origin in Eastern Europe, and Sephardic Jews originate from Spain and the Middle East like Iraq and Iran. These two distinct groups have varying traditions when it comes to naming a baby. Sephardic Jews, name their children after the grandparents of the children that are still living. Ashkenazi Jews have a very different approach to naming their babies. They chose a name of a family member that has passed away. By giving their baby a name of an admired and loved relative that is no longer living, it’s a way to keep their memory alive and a sign of respect. Some people decide to modernize the names a little bit, since many grandparents were born around 1920 and later. They may take the first letter of a loved one’s name like Morris, and give their child a name with an M like Max or Michael.
Sometimes naming a baby can cause conflict in a family, and sometimes there may not be a relative that a couple wants to memorialize with a namesake. Oftentimes Jewish people chose to name their baby after a beloved person that is in the Torah or the Jewish bible. Moses, who parted the Red Sea and led the Jews out of bondage in Egypt, has been a very popular boy’s name for centuries. Some people elect to give their baby the Hebrew name of Moses which is Moshe, and a modern English version or nickname is often Moe. Many couples choose a name that is exactly the same in English and Hebrew, keeping things simple. For instance a popular boys name that is the same in Hebrew and English is Noah, and or Gideon. Some people chose a word that they like, for instance a popular girls name is Yafa, which means beautiful or pretty in Hebrew. Another name that is a common girls name is Tseepohr which means bird in Hebrew.
A very wildly popular name for girls and boys in Hebrew is from the word ‘life’ or Chay, the boys name of Chayim means life, and the girls form is Chaya. Any name that is chosen with care and thought, will carry the baby through to all the wonderful milestones that one experiences through life.