Our sages taught that we go through life with three names:
- The name we receive at birth from our parents
- Nicknames our friends and family give us over time
- The name we build for ourselves (our reputation)
While our parents give us the name that goes on our birth certificates, Jewish children are also given a Hebrew name. For sons, this usually occurs at the time of the Brit Milah (Bris), Covenant of Circumcision, eight (8) days after a boy is born. For daughters, we call the ceremony a Brit Bat, Covenant of the Daughter, a symbolic ceremony of welcoming infant daughters into the covenant with God. The Baby Naming Ceremony for boys and girls is a brief ceremony in which the baby is given his or her Hebrew name.
There are several traditions for choosing a Hebrew Name for your child:
- Some chose a Hebrew Name that sounds similar to their secular name(s).
- Some chose a Hebrew Name because they like the meaning of the word or the translation has some significance to the family.
- Ashkenazic Jews (those of European ancestry) often select a name that commemorates a deceased relative of the baby in order to honor that person’s memory. Sometimes this means giving the child the same name as the deceased relative or giving the child a name using the same first letter as the deceased’s Hebrew or English name.
- Sephardic Jews (those of Spanish and Middle Eastern ancestry) often use the same naming concept, but have the custom of naming their children after living relatives.
During the baby naming ceremony, there is an opportunity for the parents of the new baby to explain their choice of name and its significance to them. Blessing are said during the ceremony acknowledging that the child has been entered into a covenant with God. Blessings are also recited for the baby’s well-being. The traditional wish is offered – that this child may grow into a life of study of Torah, of loving relationships, and the performance of good deeds.
There are many options available to you, regarding the location of your Baby Naming Ceremony:
- Your Home or the Home of a loved one
- The Hospital
- One of the social halls at HCRJ
- At the beginning of a Friday night Shabbat (Sabbath) service
- The Rabbi’s Study
An excellent book to help you become more familiar with these customs and to help you get started in your preparations for a Brit ceremony is “The New Jewish Baby Book” by Anita Diamant.
If you have any questions regarding the customs of Baby Naming, Brit Milah or Brit Bat, or you’d like to schedule a Baby Naming Ceremony, please contact Rabbi Gross. He will help you decide on the appropriate time and place for your special ceremony.