Changing Names

Very recently I have announced to my children that I am adding another Hebrew name to my given Hebrew name.

In Jewish law a person is allowed to change or to add to his/her given name for any purpose or reason.

Traditionally it is the custom to add or to change a name when someone is very sick. A change of name will confuse the malach ha-mavet, the feared angel of death, and will add Divine energy and strength for healing. The change or addition thus becomes a blessing.

Our rabbis have quoted from opinions of the renowned Kabbalist scholar, the Ari, who taught that a name is intrinsically connected with the essence of a child and is a critical component of the person’s character.

When I was a young child my father used to tell me that when we arrive at the gates of heaven an angel will ask us “what is your Jewish name”?

And since my father’s name was Yaakov (Jacob) he would be ready with his reply: (Psalm 20: 2) :

“Yaancha Hashem b’yom tzara’ Y’sagevcha shem Elokai Yaakov”,,, God will answer you in the day of trouble; The Name of the God of Jacob sets you on high.

I thought that was a mouthful of words just to gain entrance into heaven. But then my father revealed to me the password I would need to recite to the angel before (or if) gaining entrance. (Psalm 20:8):

“Eileh b’rechev v’eileh ba susim, va’anachnu b’shem Hashem Elokeinu nazkir”… Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will make mention of the Name of the Lord our God.

Quite a lot of words for a ten-year old child to remember. So I asked my father “couldn’t I just tell the angel that my name in Hebrew is Esor Mechuel? He can go to ask Hashem because Hashem already knows my name and He will let me into heaven.”

My father smiled, hugged and kissed me and placed his hands on my head while he recited the three-fold blessing of Aaron, the High Priest and brother of Moses.

But I really did like the part of the psalm which mentioned chariots and horses.

In our Tanach, the collection of 24 books of the bible, we find that changing or adding names was a common practice for a multitude of reasons, many by the Divine words of Hashem yitborach.

Here are names which were changed:

Abram- Abraham
Sarai- Sarah
Jacob-Israel
Joseph- Zaphenath-paneah
Solomon- Yedidyah
Hoshea- Joshua
Yeter- (7 names)-Jethro, Hobab, Heber, Reuel, Keni and Putiel
Hadassah-Esther
Naomi-Mara
Daniel-Belteshazzar

Many of the original Hebrew names were changed to fit into the society or nation in which Jews lived, such as Babylonia, Assyria, Persia and Egypt.

Jews throughout the diaspora have given their children secular names in addition to a Hebrew name.

Israel has done wonders, in addition to all the Biblical and Talmudic names, by adding thousands of new names based upon flowers, fruits and vegetables, lakes and rivers, mountains, animals and all things of the creation of man and of God.

So I, at the “young” age of 87 have chosen to add another Hebrew name, one which will be included in the inscriptions of my grave monument.

I have chosen to add the name “Yedidyah”, beloved friend of God. Esor Mechuel Yedidyah Ben-Sorek.

That is my essence. That is who I hopefully am and have always been.

K’shmo ken hu”… as is his name, so too is he.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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