Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why is a Baby's Name Kept Secret?



Question of the Week:


I need help with my in-laws again. They want to know what name we are giving our baby (born yesterday). I told them you are not supposed to tell anyone the name of your newborn before the official naming ceremony, which happens for a girl at a Torah reading in synagogue, and for a boy at his Bris. This is so the name should be given in holy surroundings as a blessing for the child (right?). My wife's family have never heard of this and say it is silly superstition. They are a little pushy and think they have a right to know their grandchild's name already, but I want to wait. So who's right?




Concealing a baby's name before it becomes official is not just a mystical thing. There is a very practical reason for it as well. From the sound of things, you and your in-laws need to hear it.


A name is the label of the soul. A person's energy, their mission and their essence are expressed in their name. Parents are given a flash of prophecy to choose the right name for the right soul. They and they alone are given this insight, and so the power to choose the name for a child belongs to the parents.


When parents share the name with others before it has been given, they open themselves to more opinions. This one wants the name to be after her late mother, and that one thinks the name you chose is too Jewish. As long as the name has not been bestowed officially there is still scope for argument and debate, and everyone feels they have the right to share their thoughts. The reactions you get to the name, like a scrunched up nose, a quizzical look, or stone cold silence, can leave you unsure of your choice. 


Why ask for trouble? Let the parents decide on the name between themselves without any outside interference, and let everyone else find out the name once it is a done deal and there is no room for further discussion. The prophecy is theirs and no one else's. Keeping the name under wraps allows the parents to hold that space as their own until the time is right to share it.


I am sure your in-laws mean well. But your baby's name is for you and your wife to choose. It isn't often we get to be a prophet for a day. They already had their chance. Now is yours.


Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss


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