What’s In A Name? (The Significance of a Hebrew Name)

Hebrew Name Traditions:

A Hebrew name is traditionally given to a Jewish baby at the brit milah (circumcision) for boys and at a Torah reading for girls shortly after birth or within the first few weeks after birth.

A child’s Hebrew name can be a name that sounds like the baby’s secular/English name, or begins with the same sound or letter. It can also be completely different from the secular name, as long as the name is meaningful to the family.

During the naming ceremony at home or at synagogue, blessings are said for the baby’s happiness, well-being and future good deeds, acknowledging that the child has been entered into a brit (covenant) with God.

Your Hebrew Segulah:

The Jewish mystics said every Jewish individual is to select a biblical verse beginning with the first let­ter of your Hebrew name and ending with the last letter of your Hebrew name. This verse is a segulah (a protective and auspicious charm, activity or ritual) recited after the Shemoneh Esreh prayer (known as the Amidah); the core prayer of every Jewish worship service.

It’s believed that the soul reports to the celestial angels with this verse in order to advance the processing of its earthly record after death and that the Mashiach (Messiah) will call you forth and raise you up by your Hebrew name.

To find your verse based on your Hebrew name, an alphabetical list of verses can be found is some traditional siddurim (prayerbooks), such as Siddur Tehillat Hashem. My verse for example, starts with Aleph and ends in Lamed. You can also ask a rabbi to help you find your verse.

In Kabbalah, the 22 sacred letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet are the building blocks of creation. Your Hebrew name represents the combination of sacred letters that reflect distinct characteristics and the purpose for which you were created.

Adopting, Adding to, or Changing your Hebrew Name:

If you were not given a Hebrew name as baby or child, you may choose your own Hebrew name at any age and at any time in your life.

It is customary in Judaism to take a new Hebrew when one is seriously ill and suffering in mind, body or spirit, to shift your energy field and deflect any malevolent forces. The new name is believed to evoke an internal and external paradigm shift for the person that is suffering.

If your name is linked to trauma or was inappropriately given, taking a Hebrew name or new Hebrew name is considered to be transformative and auspicious.

You can say a special prayer for it, which can be found in the back of some books of Tehillim (Psalms), or you can ask your rabbi to arrange an adult name changing ceremony for you on Shabbat, Monday or Thursday, when the Torah is read. The prayer will be said before the congregation to publicize the change or addition.

You can also use the Misheberach for receiving a Hebrew name as an adult. Misheberach means “the One who blessed [our ancestors].”

A special blessing or synagogue ceremony is completely optional. Some people opt for a ceremony, others just use their Hebrew name without any formal announcements or ceremonies.

When you become known by the name for 30 days, the name is changed and the name is your name, no ceremony needed or required. You may choose to notify people of your Hebrew name or simply start using it.

Some choose a Hebrew name because the meaning of it resonates with them or they identify with a person in the Torah with that name. Others choose the Hebrew equivalent of their secular name or one that shares a commonality.

Once you begin using your Hebrew name, it is improper for anyone to use your ‘dead name’ or secular name.

Importance and Significance of Your Hebrew Name:

One’s Hebrew name is the cornerstone of one’s Jewish identity. The Sages remind us that we have retained our Jewish identities through centuries of brutal persecution, exile and attempted genocide of the Jewish people, because the people retained their “Hebrew names, language and dress.”

In Judaism, it’s traditional to have a secular name and a Hebrew name or only a Hebrew name. If you have both, your Hebrew name is the name that God knows you by and your spiritual calling card. Your Hebrew name is used for all Jewish life-cycle events from birth to death and all prayers, blessings, rituals and ceremonies. For optimal spiritual benefits, it is used all the time.

Your Hebrew name is your spiritual call sign, embodying your unique character traits and G‑d-given gifts. Ideally, you should use it 24 hours a day, not just when you’re called to the Torah or when prayers are offered on your behalf. Your Hebrew name functions as a conduit, channeling spiritual energy from G‑d into your soul and your body.


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