In this particular chapter, we present only customs involving the naming of newborn children, not adopted children, converts
or a sick person who's name is being changed.
In general, the giving of a name should be looked upon as a great
responsibility that involves serious consideration by the parents. In many
places in Kabbalah and Chassidus it is explained how the name
by which something is called is the conduit through which its life-force is
infused. Therefore, the AriZal (Rabbi Isaac Luria) writes. "When a
person is born and his father and mother give him his name...the Holy One puts
into their mouth the particular name required for that soul" (Sefer
HaGilgulim, introduction 23; Emek HaMelech, Shaar 1 end
of Ch. 4; Or HaChayim on Devarim 29:17)
Both Parents Should Agree
The giving of the name should be with the agreement of both parents together,
as it is stated in various sources. The parents may, however, allow someone else
to give the name, acting as their agent. If in fact it was not done this way
(and instead the name was given by the grandmother or the like without the
parents' permission) the parents can decide on the particular name they wish. If
a name was already formally given in front of a Sefer Torah, the name
should not be canceled (G-d forbid), but another name of the parents choice may
When the Parents are in Disagreement
The Rebbe wrote to someone, that in places where there is no established
custom, the names should be given in alternating order: the first to the father,
the second name to the mother, the third again to the father, etc.
In Scriptures we occasionally find that the children were named sometimes by
the father and sometimes by the mother. For example, regarding the tribes it is
written "and she called his name..." In fact, all the names of the tribes
(except Binyamin) were given by their mothers. We can draw no inference from
this, as it makes no sense to say that the names of all sons belongs to the
mother and the father has no part in it, especially since we do find in
Scriptures children named by their father, and occasionally even by both
together (Yishael, Binyamin) or even by outsiders (Zerach, Peretz, Oved).
[Possibly the reason why the tribes were named by Rachel and Leah is in
keeping with the teachings of the Sages (Beraishis Rabbah, end of 72) "the
Matriarchs were prophetesses and the Patriarchs were inferior to them in
prophecy" as it says, "everything that Sarah says to you, hearken unto her
voice." Also, the names of Yitzchak and Esav were apparently given by Sarah
(Beraishis 21:6) and Rivkah (Rashi, ibid. 25:26).
Naming After a Living Person
Generally speaking, the custom differs between Sephardim and Ashkenazim.
Among Sephardim, naming the child after the living grandfather is regarded as a
great honor for him. Thus, he names his son after his father while he is still
living. Ashkenazim are scrupulous not to name the child after a living
grandfather, rather, only after someone who has already passed on to the next
A certain Jew once asked the Rebbe, how it is possible that he replied to
someone (from a Sephardic community) that he could name his son after his father
who was still living, when in fact the Ashkenazim are careful not to do this?
The Rebbe answered him: "How can I ignore such a custom, when it is related
explicitly in Chumash (end of Parshas Noach) that Terach named
his son after his father who was still alive, as we calculate from the numbers
stated in those verses?"
Naming a Grandchild with a Grandparents' Name
According to Ashkenazic custom, if a child has been given more than one name
and afterwards it was remembered that the child's living grandparent bears one
of those names, the child should only be called by the one non-shared name. The
same applies to the English name.
Naming After Tzaddikim
Many have the good custom of naming their children after the holy and the
righteous - tzaddikim and tzidkaniyot.
Names given after tzaddikim and tzidkaniyot should
preferably not be combined with other names.
The Proper Time for Naming a Boy
The proper time to name a baby boy is during the Bris ceremony. This
includes naming at a delayed Bris. However, if the child is sick and
there is a need for a name to be able to pray on the child's behalf (or in the
case of a firstborn whose Bris is after his Pidyon Haben) a
name can be given at an earlier time.
The Proper Time for Naming a Girl
There are various customs regarding the naming of a baby girl: at the first
Shabbas Torah reading or at the Shabbas Torah reading
following the fifth day of birth, or at the first Torah reading after
the birth. A Jewish girl is regarded as one who is born circumcised (Talmud
Avodah Zarah 27b) and thus her Jewish soul enters immediately upon birth;
therefore, she should be named as soon as possible.
The Rebbe writes in Igros Kodesh Vol 14, p. 56 "Regarding the proper
time for naming a girl - we know of a ruling by my saintly father-in-law the
Rebbe, following the actual practice of the Mitteler Rebbe, that it should be
done at the first occasion of which the Torah is read..."