We are awaiting our fourth child... and here we go again. My husband and I are trying to come up with an appropriate name for another precious soul. The process is full of excitement, fun, anticipation – and high expectations from our child who is not even born yet. It’s like that old joke: "We are happy to announce the birth of our son, Dr. Solomon Stern."
The fact that I know the gender of the baby (patience is not one of my virtues), while my husband chose not to find out, does not make things easier. In order to not give away the secret, I have to insist equally hard on my picks for either gender (even though I already know that half the battle is not even worth fighting). Thank God, my husband and I are not that far apart in our choices. We are not considering names like Nicholas, Ahmed, Jose, Fatima and Google.
We evaluated not just the sound and flow of each name, but also the essence.
We are choosing a name that is connected to our Jewish roots. First we took a look at all our deceased relatives whose lives we admired and whose memory we want to preserve. This did not give us many options, since the appropriate names were already used for our first three children. So we went to Aish.com to expand our options. We looked at all the names one by one, evaluating not just their sound and flow, but also looking into the essence of each. If it’s a biblical personality, what they live for, what did they accomplish, and what character traits distinguished them? If the name is an object or an animal, what is the deeper meaning behind it?
From the very first breath, we want to imbue our children with those qualities we value the most – whether it's the wisdom of King Solomon, the self-sacrifice of Rachel, the sincere prayer of Chana, the humility of Moses, the peacemaking of Aaron, or simply peace itself – Shalom. We hope that a name like Aryeh (“lion”) will put courage into our son's heart, or a name like Nechama will bring “comfort” to our lives. We name our son Reuven (“see, a son!”) to proclaim the joy of having a son, or a daughter Shayna (“beautiful!”) to express our pride in her inner and outer beauty.
While my baby grows within me I have time to reflect on how we chose the names of our first three children. When we got married, we were only in the beginning of our Jewish journey. We were both coming from assimilated backgrounds (me being a child of intermarriage), and we wanted to find a name for our first born that would reflect our strong connection to Judaism and yet have a modern ring to it. My great-grandfather was legendary in my mother's family for practicing Jewish tradition even during the Soviet regime. His name was Zelig. At that time we could not consider giving our son that name, since it would upset everyone in our respective families. So we found a compromise. My husband, as an only child, was a bit of a loner; at the age of 10 he got into painting. The theme often involved wolves. So we combined my heritage and my husband's passion, and came up with a perfect name – Zev (Hebrew for “wolf”).
Next, we had a daughter. That one was easy. My husband's beloved grandmother was the one who raised him, for all practical purposes, while his parents were establishing themselves in the early years after arriving in the promised land of America. Her name was Rivka. He had three other ancestors named Chana and Chanan. Thus was born our precious daughter Rivka Chana.
She insisted that a secular name would make life easier in the USA.
Don’t forget that one consideration in choosing a name is that the grandparents are pleased. My mother-in-law was very happy that we named our daughter after her mother, though she kept insisting that we also give her a secular name to make life easier in the USA. At some point, though, she got tired of repeating herself and gave up.
This name, however, did not go over well with my parents. So to try to mitigate "the damage" of a "too-Jewish-of-the-name," when it came to our third child, we went with my grandfather's name, Mikhail. But to keep it biblical, we adjusted the name into Michal, one of King David's wives. We also loved the name Avigail ("father's joy"), who was also a wife of King David. And so came down to earth our third blessing, Avigail Michal.
With her, I really understood the Talmudic teaching (Brachot 7b) that our names influence who we are. She is comparable to the both queens – not only in beauty but also very strong and assertive! Jewish tradition says that parents are actually blessed with prophesy when naming their newborn babies so that they will choose names which aptly describe their children's personas and their destinies in life.
The news of my fourth pregnancy was met with tears, and those were not tears of joy, but tears of "why-are-you-ruining-your-
So as we anxiously await child number four, we pray that the name we choose will be befitting of the high hopes and expectations that we have for our new daughter … umm, I mean, son… I mean, I’m not supposed to say yet.