This past year, one of the many pleasures of my new role at Holy Blossom Temple has been being with families as we welcome new babies into the Covenant. The link between the past, present, and future that the ceremony represents is a very moving and meaningful experience. I think the essence of this is found in the naming of a child.
We give our babies Jewish names (Hebrew and sometimes Yiddish) of loved ones who are no longer with us (or the Sephardic tradition of naming after a live grandparent) to link our lives and the life of our baby to those who came before us. With the Jewish name we are proclaiming our child to be a part of the People Israel, and we are proclaiming that a part of our loved ones live on in this new person.
I often help parents choose Jewish names for their babies. We employ several different strategies. Let’s say a couple wants to name their boy after Great-Grandfather Isidore whose Hebrew name was Yisrael. Great—we give the baby the Hebrew name Yisrael. But, let’s say, the couple wants to name their daughter after beloved Great Aunt Dorothy, and nobody knows Dorothy’s Hebrew name. There is a few things that we can do: We can choose a Jewish name that sounds like “Dorothy” or begins with the Hebrew letter dalet like Dana or Daniela or Devora. Or, we can find the meaning of “Dorothy” and find a Hebrew name that means the same. “Dorothy” happens to mean “gift of God,” so a Hebrew equivalent would be Netanya. If the parents don’t like these options, we will also talk about the qualities of Dorothy that they hope their new child will embody, and we can pick a Jewish name that projects that virtue. Like: Hannah=grace; Simcha=joy; Sarah=noble.
It is my honour to be able to help families with this mitzvah of bringing new children into the Covenant by connecting their family’s past with their family’s future. When new babies come, all of the clergy at Holy Blossom are here to guide our members through this sacred time of joy and promise.