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Jewish naming culture

Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Question

Do Jewish babies bear the name of their parents (either father or mother)? Like in Ghana, babies normally bear the surname of their fathers.

Answer

Thank you for your question. There is a strong custom to name children after their ancestors. However, the custom is not to use the names of the newborn's parents that are alive, rather the names of his/her grandparents. Sources and detail: In Bereishit Raba (parsha 37, siman 10) it says, “We name (the baby) after our fathers. One reason for this is that we don't use the names of wicked people, but rather after tzaddikim. Therefore, we prefer giving a name of our parents who were most probably righteous (aguda, see yalkut yosef sova semachot, brit mila, 10, 7). Another reason is that by naming them after our ancestors we are honoring our parents/ grandparents. See more about this here: https://www.yeshiva.org.il/midrash/17636 A third reason is that it can give the baby who grows up a feeling of connectedness with his ancestors. He will feel that he has roots and will continue in their footsteps and be inspired with a positive role model. If the grandparents are alive the Ashkenazim don't name their babies after them. However, it is a Sephardic custom to name after grandparents even if they are alive. All the best

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