In satz

By Rabbi Michael Satz.

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.

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  • Lori Gershon
    Reply

    I should have added that premature babies generally cannot be circumcised on the eighth day, which was why their parents were able to choose the day and time of the bris.

  • Lori Gershon
    Reply

    We had the most amazing double bris in the Chicago area, for my grandsons who were born premature. How many times have you seen a bris at noon on a Sunday, with over 100 attending, most of whom participated enthusiastically?

    One of the twins was named Eli, for my husband Ernest Elias Gershon (Eliyahu) who, in turn, was named for his great Grandfather Eli Gershonovich. Eli’s middle name is Charles, after his mother’s grandfather. Nathan (after Jen’s other grandfather) has Daniel as his middle name, after Ernie’s father David (and Rabbi Satz has explained how that is an acceptable way of conjuring a name). I think Daniel is probably preferable to David, since there already is a David Gershon named for Ernie’s father.

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