Sunday, October 17, 2010

When Jewish Names Aren't

It seems like a while since I've been able to find some good Jewish content for the blog. Luckily, there are a number of high-quality Jewish websites out there, and plenty of them have nice, chunky bits of bizarre goodness. Take the "Ask the Rabbi?" section of As anyone who reads the blog knows, I am a huge fan of "Ask the Rabbi" segments, be they Lazer Brody or random Chabad dudes on Arutz Sheva. .

Lots of times the questions are above my head, like whether women are allowed to say amen to certain prayers or whether you're allowed to eat a slice of bread on a bus if there's nowhere to wash your hands (not even kidding). But there are some basic categories I think I can handle, like what names are kosher. I particularly liked this question:
My spouse is very interested in giving the name "Adam" to our son who was recently born. I am concerned about this because I truly believe that the name given to a child affects his future and I heard that the name Adam is problematic, perhaps because of Adam’s sin, what should I do???
Wait, so you can only name kids after sinless people? Guess there's going to be a lot of Jesus Goldbergs going around.

The rabbi tries to play both sides:
The Chida (Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai) in his book Birkei Yosef quotes Rabbi Moshe Miterani (1500 – 1580) in his Responsa Hamabit 1, 276, that it is not proper to give the name Adam or Noah or Shem and Eber because one should not name after people, only from Abraham onwards, and one who is called by the name Japheth etc. from the names prior to Abraham is not amongst “whose labor is in the Torah and who gives pleasure to his Creator”. 
Wow, those are some harsh standards. I know a lot of Adams and Noahs who are going to be pissed. (Other names this would disbar from the Jewish canon: Seth, Jared, and of course, Tubalcain.)

Oh wait, fake-out! Looks like all the other rabbis thought this one guy was a few matzot short of a full box.
The Rabbi author of Kenesset Hagedolah wonders at him, as we find R’ Benjamin son of Japheth, and Heaven forbid that the father of R’ Japheth breeched a safeguard and so forth, see there. Similarly should be noted from Akabia ben Mahalalel. The Chida concludes that people are not concerned about this and do give the names Adam Noah etc. 
So you can trust these great sages Rabbi Chaim Benveniste author of the "Kenneset Hagedolah" (Constantinople 1603 - Izmir 1673) and the Chida (Jerusalem 1727 - Livorno 1806) and give your son the name Adam. And particularly in this case that it involves Shalom Bayit (domestic harmony) and great is peace. There is another option to give the child a name in addition to the name Adam.
Man, no fair! Being reasonable? Trying to promote compromise? What kind of rabbi is this guy? I bet this guy is really some half-Jewish, hippy-dippy Reform faker. Hear that, "Moshe Leib Halberstadt," if that is your real name? I'm calling you out!

Other entertaining name questions: Why do stupid people name their kids Nimrod, (answer: they're stupid) and OMG, my namesake married a Goy, what should I do? (answer: nothing, stupid.)

And apologies to Beit-El Yeshiva, which is apparently not as nutty as I thought.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't that sound about right for how a rabbi would answer a question? There is a long tradition of many possible sides to a question.

This was amusing to read.