In Biblical times, the Jewish people did not have surnames; they were known by their name and the name of their parents. Cain ben Adam v’ Eve, or Cain, son of Adam and Eve, was quite common. Today, we honor that tradition by bestowing upon our children Hebrew names in baby naming ceremonies. The name is up to the parents or guardians; it can sound like the secular/English name, such as Samuel and Shmuel, it can start with the same letter or sound, be a name that is significant to the family, or any other reason! Often, individuals choose a name that commemorates a relative who has passed to honor that person’s memory. Some Jews name children after those who are living, as well.
It is said in the Talmud that the night before a name is chosen, an angel comes down and whispers the name into the ear of the parents. Many consider the very essence and personality of a soul will be bound to the person for whom he or she is named. It is considered best to choose the name of a person with a great respect for learning and who was known for doing good deeds and living a long, fruitful life.
Judaism offers special ceremonies for parents to express their wonder and gratitude at the arrival of a new baby to the family. At this time, parents welcome the child into the covenant of the Jewish People.
For males, a circumcision or Brit Milah is an ancient Jewish custom performed on a healthy baby boy on the 8th day of life. A mohel or a doctor can perform the procedure. At the same time, the child is also given his Hebrew name.
Female baby naming ceremonies can be held at any time, most often in the first few weeks of life, although many choose to celebrate it on the 8th day as well. A naming ceremony introduces the baby to family and friends and is cause for great celebration! The ceremony can take place in people’s homes or at the synagogue, performed by a rabbi in a relatively brief service.
*Our clergy are happy to celebrate these important life cycle events with you and your family. For more information or to schedule a time to meet with a member of the clergy, please contact Stacy Jespersen at [email protected] or 314-692-5302.