Monday, May 12, 2014
Thanks to Rabbi Lazer Brody for this great article showing the rich Jewish Tradition of the value of having a Name!
I might add that as every name ever given is prophecy [thus the Rabbi warns against frivolous choices in choosing a name] and contains our Torah [non-astrological] Mazal; Mazal is the Torah defined relationship that we have with Hashem as He calls our name. Thus like any piece of Torah, a Name is the most natural Word(s) of Torah that we possess, and we can gleam infinite wisdom from the Tree of Life just by delving into our names!
Unlike astrology and divination, the soul has a name, and that name is part of the Torah itself; to learn the Name is most distinct path in understanding ourselves as we exist in relation to God. One need only to look into the Torah to see how important it is to have a Name and that its investigation is fundamental in Judaism and tradition straight from the Torah. The Zohar and kabbalah has endless examples of showing how a name entails our mission, not as to show the future, but to connect to our mazal/energy that we constantly live with, and so that when the moment comes to act for God, we have our name to rely upon.
**For the record I do not endorse outright baseless name change; what I do endeavor to help with is aiding and influencing an additional subsidiary Hebrew Name that serves to help with spiritual insight to a person's life and meaning/purpose. As with any Torah, Hebrew has the divine quality to shine a more precise image of our soul; yet should one want to investigate their natural born name, there is no need to change it out of haste or spite, rather it too yields great wisdom under the disciplines of Torah study, that apply to all learning of names in this way in Torah tradition.
One of the most frequent questions people ask me is they're allowed to change their names. Hundreds of times, I hear complaints like, "Is it my fault that my grandmother's name was Yenta Dvosha? Why did my parents call me that? They didn't consider what I would have to go through…"
Nimrod was born on a kibbutz in the Galilee. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, a Hizbolla bullet pierced a hole in his helmet but merely cut his scalp. He needed stitches, but he couldn't ignore the miracle, for less than a centimeter separated between life and death. Nimrod became a baal teshuva, a newly observant Jew, but the name had to go, for the Nimrod in the Torah was the first person in history to rebel against Hashem.
Many people aren't happy with the name that their parents give them, for any number of reasons. The bottom line is that it's their life, and they want to do what makes them happy. Mom might have loved the name of Myrtle and maybe Dad thought that Isidore was a distinguished name, but why should their kids be stuck with a name that makes them miserable? Shouldn't they be allowed the free choice of changing their own name? What are the ramifications of a name change?
The Torah shows us that a change of name invokes a change of good fortune. Abram and Sari were not only childless, but totally infertile. Hashem changed their names to Abraham and Sarah, and they became parents with millions of offspring – we are the proof! Since the name of a person reflects the nature of his or her soul, one who changes his/her name gets a new soul. Usually, his or her life takes a turn for the better. Nevertheless, you shouldn't decide on a new name on your own; seek the advice of a qualified rabbi and genuine spiritual guide who understands the ramifications of a name change and who knows you as well. Such an individual can help you choose the right name.
A person's name, inasmuch as it's the "label" of his or her soul, tells much about that person's character traits. Here are things to consider when changing your name:
1. Choose the name of a righteous person, preferably from the Torah and preferably a Hebrew name, for Hebrew names have a special holiness, and holiness is a vessel for Divine abundance.
2. Don't choose the name of an angel, unless it is a commonly used name such as Michael, Gabriel or Raphael.
3. Stay away from foreign names (see #5, below).
4. Don't take the name of a person who died young or was killed tragically.
5. Don't take a name that is strange. "Trendy" names like "April" or "Tiger" may be fun for a cocktail party, but they're devastating for a soul. They don't stem from holiness so they don't invoke blessings.
6. Pick a name that you like, that you're comfortable with and that best seems to describe you.
When a person doesn't feel good about his or her name, he or she has every right to change it. Changing a name does have its advantages. Our sages say that a name change rips up an evil decree against a person. The Zohar says that by virtue of a name change, one's sins are forgiven. Rebbe Nachman says that a name change can elevate a person. And, the Rambam tells us that a name change helps a person break away from the past and forget it.
In any event, a name change is serious business – don't take it lightly. You can't change your name like your change your clothes, for multiple name changes can trigger severe identity crises. Again, consult a qualified rabbi and genuine spiritual guide whom you trust and who knows you.
Parents have no right to emotionally blackmail their children who want to change their names. Let the child live his life as he sees fit. By the same token, parents cannot expect their children to have the same taste or values as they do, especially when the parent is secular and the child has decided to live an observant lifestyle. The name that suited him on the football field is not the name he wants as a Torah student. "Candy" or "Ginger" was fine for a cheerleader, but the young lady who is now learning Torah in Jerusalem and contemplating marriage would much rather be Rivka or Rachel.
Some months ago, I purchased a new cellular phone. The store manager, a courteous and personable young lady, asked me if I were a rabbi. When I answered in the affirmative, she requested a blessing to get married. She told me that she was 28, a university graduate with a good job and good salary, athletic and considered attractive. She had plenty of dates but no marriage proposals and not even one decent candidate to spend the rest of her life with. "What's wrong with me, Rabbi? What's holding up the train?"
I asked the young woman what her name was. She answered, "Lilit". I gulped. She asked what was wrong. I told her that her name was the wife of the Samech-Mem, better known as the Satan. No wonder she wasn't married. Her parents. "modern Israelis", liked the sound of they name they give her, but they never asked its significance. That following Shabbat, I arranged a formal name change for her. She was blessed by her new name, "Leah the daughter of Menachem", in front of an open Torah scroll. Lilit became Leah, and Leah became engaged to a wonderful young man less than two months later.
The right name is conducive for inner peace and freedom from emotional bondage. Be careful about picking your new name and don't be impulsive. It's so important to consult your rabbi and spiritual guide. Most of all, be true to yourself. May you have nothing but blessings always, amen!
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