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Changing your name


Rabbi David Sperling

Cheshvan 28, 5783
Hi there I wanted to ask about changing your name and how much damage it does to your Mazal and your personality. I'm a giyores with too many names for too many reasons and Im tired of it and want to drop a few.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Firstly, let me advice you to speech to a Rabbi personally, someone who knows you, and your community, and who can give you specific advice that will be just right for you. (All those “too many names” and all those “too many reasons” and your tiredness are all really important when making a real practical ruling – we want the ruling to be correct for you, so nothing is more important than listening to your whole story first). But none the less, here are some guidelines. From a purely halachic point of view, you may decide for yourself (as an adult) to call yourself whatever you like. Your name is what you go by. So, if you want to be called Sarah, or Rainbow, it’s fine. You just start using that name, and that’s who you are! In order to publicize the name, it’s a good idea to get it announced in synagogue via a Misabarach. (And in order for it to affect your legal forms, you need to do some secular name change which differs in each country.) However, before you rush out and tell everyone to start calling you Icecream (because you decided that no other name fits you better than that!) Here are some things to consider. Firstly, we value honoring people. So, if one was named by their parents (which I understand is not the case with you), then one should consider whether a name change might not upset them, or in some way dishonor them. The same is true if you are name after someone – will changing your name be a sign of disrespect to them? Next, some names are socially not appropriate – like Icecream for example. Or names of wicked people. Next, and very importantly, there is a very mainstream idea in Judaism that one’s name has spiritual ramifications. Some people treat this idea with more weight than others – but nearly all would agree that it’s a bad idea to just play around with your name. One’s name is connected to a persons more inner spiritual being. And changing it is not to undertaken lightly. So, with all this in mind – you shouldn’t be burdened with a name (or names) that are annoying for you. On the other hand, you will want to think long and deep (and again, speak to someone who knows you and can give you personal advice) before picking a new one. May you be blessed with all that is good.
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