- I'm sure many are familiar with the all-time favorite flipping-out pastime of young men and women deciding to go by their Jewish name after being known by their secular name for their entire existence. We have previously discussed the reasons for this phenomenon, and I am not going to rehash that discussion. Rather I would like to present the viewpoint of a certain Rabbi Moses (as he was incidentally known as on his stationary) Feinstein on a very similar topic. It should be a mitzvah to publicize this teshuva.
In the 4th chelek of Orach Chayim (somewhere in the samechs, I think), R' Moshe writes to a person who was concerned what to call his daughter. The child was going to be named after the guy's mother, so he wanted to know if they should call the baby by the mother's Hebrew name, or her secular name, which was how she was known (either way, the child would receive at least the Hebrew name).
R' Moshe advises calling the child by the secular name for the following reasons:
1. The concept of going by a secular name is not against the spirit of Judaism. We find many tana'im with Aramaic names, and many others as well. For example, R' Moshe points out that Maimon,Rambam's father did not have a Jewish name. R' Moshe even says that it isn't even in the spirit of mussar to use a Jewish name. However, to be fair, he does say that when Jews first started to use secular names, people must have been rightfully upset about it.
2. If the mother was known by her secular name, it is a greater honor for her and her family that the child be called by the name that she was. I assume, and not by any great stretch, that this logic would apply to a name given by your parents; it is a lack of respect to change the name they gave you.
3. The medrash that praises the Jews for keeping their names in Egypt does so b/c of the context. Since the Jewish people had little to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world (the Torah had not yet been given), they needed to rely on their name to separate them. Nowadays, R' Moshe argues, this is not necessary.
I wonder what some name-changers would say after hearing thisteshuva.
This brings me to my next topic, limmudei kodesh teachers calling students by their Hebrew names. I understand many do this. They may want to help students identify with their religious side, or something like that. However, I don't like it. I think it often creates a disconnect both between the teachers and students, and between religious studies and the rest of their lives. It's like: Chumash is for Moshe Tzvi, not for Matt or something like that. But I definitely see both sides of the story here, and am sure thispractive works with many kids. I just don't think it works with the majority.
I wonder what Uncle Moishy would say."
I was very interested in reading this post. It always fascinated me that people both in my neighborhood and out, who approached my children on various occasions to "save their souls" by changing their name, were never concerned that the messages they were sending could undermine my childrens' Kibbud Av V'em.....
It was also important for me to be reminded that when people want you to do things their way, they are not always paragons of full disclosure....... (either that, or as a commenter recently stated, they don't even know the full truth themselves anymore).