The Importance of a Hebrew Name

Naming may have heavenly significance.

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Excerpted with permission from The Jewish Child: Halakhic Perspectives (Ktav).

The importance of giving the Jewish child a Hebrew name is also based on the concept that the language of the "celestial court" is Hebrew. This [gave rise to] a custom originating with the kabbalists [Jewish mystics] of the 17th century, in which every Jewish child chooses a biblical verse beginning with the first let­ter of his name and ending with the last letter of his Hebrew name. [One can find standard lists of such names and verses in some traditional prayerbooks.] This verse is recited after the Shemoneh Esreh prayer [also known as the Amidah, the core prayer of every Jewish worship service], and it is believed that the soul reports to the celestial angels with this verse in order to advance the processing of its earthly record after death. It is also believed that the Messiah will use the Hebrew names when he calls the dead to arise.


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Shoshana Matzner-Bekerman is a graduate of Bar-Ilan University and Hofstra University. She is the compiler of The International Directory of Child Development Research Centers.