The Spiritual Side of Hebrew Names for Girls
One of the most exciting moments in any person’s life is the birth of a child. The rush of exhilaration that accompanies the discovery of a pregnancy may be closely followed by a twinge of panic as the reality sets in that the time has come to consider names. For Jews, the pressure of selecting a Hebrew name may make the decision feel even more overwhelming.
At the outset, parents who are blessed with a baby girl should take a moment to understand what makes the birth of a daughter so special in the Jewish tradition. Historically, the Sages of the Talmud explained that when the Torah says that Abraham was blessed with “everything,” this phrase indicated that he was blessed with a daughter. (Genesis 24:1; Baba Batra 16b)
The reason that the blessing of a baby girl represents everything is that the birth of a daughter brings with it the promise of the continuation of the Jewish tradition. Indeed, throughout the ages, the sacrifices and perseverance of Jewish women have ensured the Children of Israel’s survival.
On a more mundane level, the Torah dictates that status as a member of the Jewish people depends on the mother’s status as a Jew. (Deuteronomy 7:3-4) G-d’s mandate that Jewish identity be passed through the mother reflects her responsibility to pass on Jewish values, Torah observance, and the desire to continue this sacred tradition.
How to Name Your Daughter
Naming a Jewish daughter has a deep spiritual dimension and is generally performed during the public reading of the Torah. At this time, a beautiful benediction called a Mi Sheberach is recited through which Jews pray for the mother’s health. Near the conclusion of this prayer, the baby girl is given her name. Finally, we pray that the baby girl grows in Torah wisdom and serves as the source for more generations of Jewish children.
Traditionally, the naming service is followed by a festive reception called a Kiddush, which the parents sponsor in honor of their baby girl. At the Kiddush, loved ones eat, drink, and share inspiring Torah thoughts, relishing the family’s excitement about their new child.
What is the Deeper Significance of a Hebrew Name?
A Hebrew name is much more than an appellation with a pleasant ring to it. A Hebrew name actually defines its bearer and speaks to one’s character traits and identity. Our Sages’ homiletic commentary on the Torah teaches that Adam named every creature in the world based on each creature’s essential qualities. (Midrash Genesis Raba 17:4) In other words, the names Adam gave were descriptive of each creature’s essence. People’s names function in the same way, describing personal character traits and inner qualities.