Is there something in the Torah that says you shouldn't name your child after a living relative?
We are about to give birth to our first son. I'm half Ashkenazi and half Sephardi. We want to name our son after my grandfather on my Sephardi side, who is still alive, but my Ashkenzi mom is freaking out and says it’s a bad omen. Is there something in the Torah that says you shouldn't name your child after a living relative? Or is this just superstition? What's the deal?
Planning for a new baby is such a wonderful and exciting time! There are many different Jewish customs when it comes to choosing a name for a baby. Traditionally, Ashkenazi Jews name a child for someone who is no longer living. Among Orthodox Jews, the first choice is often the paternal grandfather (if he is no longer alive). On the other hand, Sephardi Jews often name their children for someone who might still be living (again, traditionally the first born is named after the paternal grandfather).
The difficulty is that many Ashkenazi Jews are superstitious and believe naming a child after a living relative can bring bad luck. I’m sure this is the source of your mother’s feelings. However, there is no Jewish law about how to choose a name for your child. This comes down to tradition and culture! Choose a name that is as comfortable as possible for the various members of your family. Ultimately, the real reason to choose a name is to honor and remember a person that you love or loved. Your new baby will keep your loved one’s memory alive for future generations. I wish you a b’sha’ah tova - a good and successful time (this is the phrase Jews traditionally say to pregnant women) - as you prepare for this new baby!
Rabbi Allison Berry is a rabbi at Temple Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Newton. She's expecting her second child any day now!
More from ASK A RABBI about baby naming:
For additional information on baby naming in the Jewish tradition, visit InterfaithFamily's What To Do When The Baby Arrives: Tips for Inclusive Naming Ceremonies.