Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What's in a Name?

I don't have time to examine this right now, but someone recently made an interesting point to me. On Brachos 7b, Rabbi Elazar ben P'das expounds a verse saying that "shma garim", a person's name has an effect. The context to this statement is a prior statement by R' Yochanan, who expounds the name of Rus as a reference to her being the progenitor of David. On the other hand, it's brought down in the name of the Arizal that when parents name a child, they are imbued with Ruach HaKodesh. The gemara implies that one's name is a cause, while the Arizal, who I'm certain was aware of the gemara, implies that one's name is an effect.

I suppose that one way to reconcile these ideas would be to say that that parents are provided with Ruach HaKodesh to give their child a name that reflects the natural tendencies of their child, but once the name is given, it strengthens these natural tendencies and helps bring them to fruition in the form of actions.



At 11/19/2006 10:57 PM, Blogger Avromi said...

Does this help you at all?

Daf Yomi - Yoma 83 - Bad Names - Bad Deeds

The Gemara relates a story where Rabbi Meir determined that an innkeeper was a wicked person by examining his name. Tosefes Yom HaKippurim questions this from a Medrash in Parshas Shelach regarding the names of the spies that Moshe sent to inquire about Eretz Yisroel. The Medrash states that some of their names were pleasant yet their deeds were despicable whereas others had despicable names yet their deeds were virtuous. Thus, we see that a name is not always indicative of ones actions. The Tosefes Yom HaKippurim answers that this Medrash would be deemed an anomaly, as people whose names have negative connotations usually act in a despicable manner.

The Shearim Mitzuyanim B’Halacha, however, posits that Rabbi Meir is of the opinion that we must always be concerned for the minority and it was for this reason that Rabbi Meir suspected the innkeeper of evil intentions. The language that Rabbi Meir used is proof to this, as Rabbi Meir said, “when I said that one should be particular about names, I meant only that someone with a name that has negative connotations warrants suspicion.” Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose, who were traveling with Rabbi Meir, maintained that one always follows the majority opinion, and in this instance they felt that the majority of names are not indicative of ones character.

At 11/19/2006 11:42 PM, Blogger Josh said...

I originally thought of bringing down that sugya, but I don't think that R' Meir comes down on either side of the question, as he seems to only posit that there's a connection between name and nature, without specifying which is the cause and which is the effect.


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