Shalom dear Rabbi, in various prayers (for example for refuah), or also in general, we refer to a person as the child of his/her father or mother. My question is: when do we refer to someone as the child of his/her father, and when to do we refer to someone as the child of his/her mother? What are the ideas and principles behind referring to someone as the child of one parent and not the other? Thank you very much in advance
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are correct that we sometimes refer to a person as so and so the son/ daughter of their mother's name, and sometimes as the the son/ daughter of their father's name. Most notably we use the mother's name when praying for the health of a person. The source of this is from when King David said (Psalms 116:16): "Please, O Lord, for I am Your servant; I am Your servant the son of Your maidservant," where he mentions his mother. Another source is found in the Ben Ish Chai, who writes (Shu”T Torah Lishmah #399) that this custom is based on the Talmud in Shabbos 66b which quotes Abayei as saying that all amulets (for healing) should contain the mother’s name. Various reasons are suggested for the inner meaning of this practice, and they tend to stress the merits of the mother, and her concern for the wealth fare of her children. When using a person's name in a legal sense (such as a wedding certificate etc) the father's name is used – (as too when a person is called to the Torah reading). This is because a person's linage (whether a Cohen, Levi etc) goes through the father. Blessings.