Naming Baby After Relative Who Died Young

My uncle passed away from cancer at 59. A grandchild was just born in the family and the parents would very much like to name him after our dear uncle. He was a wonderful human being and we feel it is very appropriate to name the child after him. I am concerned, however, because of his premature death. Is that a legitimate concern or are we just being superstitious?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is certainly appropriate to name a baby after a righteous relative. However, some have the custom not to give the baby the precise name of a person who died young, especially if he was killed rather than dying naturally.

Some consider passing away before 60 a premature death (based on Talmud Mo’ed Kattan 28a). Others disagree based on the Prophet Samuel and King Solomon, both of whom died at 52 and whose names are popular today (although again, some distinguish between dying naturally and unnaturally).

As an interesting aside, many are lenient to name after Holocaust victims even though they died young. Clearly, perishing in the Holocaust is no indication that a person’s name is not suited for long life.

In your nephew’s case, there is room to be strict not to give him your uncle’s exact name but to add a name – either before or after his name. If the parents prefer the exact name, it is appropriate to state, while speaking at the brit, that they are naming the child in memory of your uncle’s good qualities and values, rather than his tragically short life.

Otherwise, mazal tov! May you and your family be granted many blessings in life!

(Source: Igrot Moshe Y.D. II 122.)

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