What’s in a (Hebrew) name?

    Red Hello My Name Is Tag with Copy Space, Isolated on White Background.

    Our names are what make us unique. They give us an identity and hopefully portray our best personality traits with their meanings.

    When it comes to Judaism, Hebrew names are especially important. It is said that they embody your unique characteristics as well as your God-given gifts, and channel “spiritual energy from G‑d into your soul and your body,” according to Chabad.org. Hebrew names are so powerful that if you’re critically ill, you may be given (or choose) a different Hebrew name to act as a healthy conduit for healing.

    Where does your Hebrew name come from?

    A Hebrew name could come from a departed ancestor if you’re Ashkenazi, a living relative if you’re Sephardic, a figure from the Torah, an influential Jewish person throughout history, or just be a name that your parents think would fit you. Traditionally, boys are named at their circumcision and girls are named when the Torah is read and a minyan is present immediately following their birth.

    If you’re a convert to Judaism, you get to choose your own Hebrew name. You can go with a name that sounds like yours in Hebrew, or choose something totally different.

    When will you use your Hebrew name?

    Hebrew names come up when you’re called up to read the Torah, when you need a prayer for healing, when you sign your marriage ketubah, and when you’re memorialized when you die. Along with your first and middle names, you’ll be ben (son of) or bat (daughter of) and then your father’s name, or both your father’s and mother’s name depending upon your customs.

    What do Hebrew names mean?

    To find out the meaning of your Hebrew name, you can go to HebrewName.org and type it in. It’ll give you how to write out your name in Hebrew, the historical period where it originated, its derivative as well as the actual meaning.

    If you don’t have a Hebrew name and want one… how do you choose?

    If you were never given a Hebrew name and you now want one, or you’re trying to figure out what your Hebrew name should be post-conversion, you can look up popular Hebrew names for girls and popular Hebrew names for boys.

    Typically, many Jews are named after the matriarchs, the patriarchs, and well-known Biblical figures. Some of the most popular names for girls are Rivkah (Rebecca), Leah, Rochel (Rachel), Sarah, Chana (Hannah) and Miriam, while some of the most popular ones for boys are Avraham (Abraham), Yakov (Jacob), Moshe (Moses), Eliyahu and Yitzak (Isaac).

    Remember when picking a Hebrew name to choose something that speaks to you and embodies what you want to be. For example, if you are a happy person (or wish to become one), you could choose the name “Aleeza,” which means joyful. If you believe you have a blessed life, you could choose “Asher,” which means fortunate. There are so many possibilities; go with what sounds like you and express your true self.

    Kylie Ora Lobell is Jewess in Chief at Jewess, a Jewish women’s website, as well as a freelance writer for Aish, Chabad, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and The Forward.