Sharona Margolin Halickman
Sharona Margolin Halickman

Names with Significance

Photo Courtesy Joshua Halickman

In last week’s Parsha, Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 17:18, we read:

Yitzchak returned and excavated the wells of water which were dug in the days of his father, Avraham, and were plugged by the Plishtim after Avraham’s death. He gave them the same names that his father had given them.

Rabbi Dr. Lionel Mirvis explains that by giving the wells the same names that Avraham had named them, Yitzchak gave credit to his father for initiating a project that provided fresh water for the community. In reopening these wells, Yitzchak was not doing something new, he was simply bringing Avraham’s vision to fruition.

According to Rabbeinu Bahye, Yitzchak’s reward for not changing the names of the wells was that he retained his own name (Yitzchak was the only one of our forefathers whose name was not changed).

Whenever a new settlement is planned in the Modern State of Israel, extensive research is done to see if an ancient settlement existed in the area.

One such settlement, Beit El, appears in this week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayetzei. We encounter Beit El in the days of Avraham as well as in the days of Yaakov, when he officially names the place, after God appears to him in his dream (Breisheet 28:19):

He (Yaakov) named the site Beit El; but previously the city had been called Luz.

The modern city of Beit El is located north of Jerusalem, in the region of Benyamin, not far from Ramallah. Beit El was awarded local council status in 1997. There are now over 6500 people living in Beit El.

Some other examples of names of cities that are based on ancient settlements are Kiryat Arba (which overlooks Chevron), Efrat (near Beit Lechem), Elazar (near the battlefield where Yehuda Maccabi’s brother lost his life) and Be’erot Yitzchak, literally the wells of Yitzchak (near where Yitzchak stayed).

Rabbi Mirvis points out that the modern founders of the State of Israel who kept the ancient names of the cities alive have also been rewarded. Many of our modern sites are named in their honor.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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