Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Matot-Masei 5763/ July 26, 2003
Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty
of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies,
Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet
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Inquiries and comments to:
Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,
Matot-Masei 5763/ July 26, 2003
"In His Name, After His Name"
Prof. Yaakov Spiegel
Department of Talmud
Rabbi Judah Hasid, a well-known medieval rabbi from Ashkenaz
(c. 1150-1217), wrote many works, including one known as the Testament
of Rabbi Judah Hasid (Tzava'at R. Judah Hasid), containing
teachings or instructions which ostensibly are not found in the writings of the
Sages, including some which appear to contradict the Talmud. This work was
studied extensively by rabbis who came after him, although this is not the place
to go into the details of these studies. We shall make do with presenting one
item from his Testament and show how various rabbis attempted to find the
source for it in the Torah.
In his Testament
A man should not marry a woman whose
name is the same as his mother's, or whose prospective
father-in-law's name is the same as his own; and if he has married such a
woman, one of them should change their name and then there might be
The generally accepted explanation is that when the bride and
her mother-in-law or the husband and his father-in-law have the same name, this
state of affairs will cause the commandment of honoring one's parents not
to be fulfilled properly. How so? When the groom calls his bride by name, one
could mistakenly think he had called his mother by name, and according to the
, a person is not to call his own mother by her given
Some people say this is also a matter
of modesty, lest he call to his bride and his mother think he had meant
The aharonim (later rabbinic authorities) agreed that
Rabbi Judah Hasid's instruction did not apply when a person's name
was changed before marriage, and that his remark that "then there might be
hope" only applied to name changes after marriage. This raises the
question whether taking an additional name constitutes a change of name. For
example, suppose the bride and the groom's mother were both named Rachel.
According to the Testament, the couple must not marry. Suppose that
henceforth the bride were to be called Rachel Leah, or Leah Rachel; would that
constitute a change in her name so that the couple may marry? Or is the
addition of another name to no avail, so that the proscription still
Parashat Matot provides an answer to this question.
Towards the end of the reading it says: "Jair son of Manasseh went and
captured their villages, which he renamed Havvoth-jair. And Nobah went and
captured Kenath and its dependencies, renaming it Nobah after himself (Heb.
bi-shmo)" (Num. 32:41-42).
Both Jair and Nobah named the places they captured after
themselves. But the Torah emphasizes this only with respect to Nobah, saying,
"renaming it Nobah after himself," whereas with Havvoth-Jair the
Torah does not mention that it was "after himself." On the basis of
this difference, the aharonim
concluded that this passage in the Torah
indicated that the name Havvot-jair was not considered to be named after, or
identical with, Jair. Hence the conclusion that any addition to a
person's name - in this case the word Havvoth - creates a new
name, distinct from the person's original
Returning to the question raised above, the bride who is now
called Rachel Leah is considered to have a completely new name, totally
unrelated to her former name, Rachel. Incidentally, this explains the practice
of those who are careful to call people by both their names. For example, if a
person is named Reuben Simeon, they will take care to always call him Reuben
Simeon together, and not simply Reuben or Simeon, since the latter are not
considered a shortening of his name but rather a totally different name. We
also conclude from this that the name Reuben Simeon is not the same as Simeon
Reuben; rather, these are two different
It is interesting to note that three rabbis presented this
argument: Rabbi Barukh Epstein, author of the Torah Temima
, in his
commentary on the Torah, Tosefet Berakhah
; Rabbi R. Margaliyot, in note
35 on the Testament of Judah Hasid
; and Rabbi Eliezer Silver, in the wake
of the following incident.
When the first son
of Rabbi Isaac Ausband, head of the Telse-Cleveland Yeshiva, was born, he wanted
to name him in memory of his father-in-law, Rabbi Isaac Bloch, rabbi of Telse.
He was not sure, however, that this would be proper since he himself was called
Yitzhak Isaac, and according to Ashkenazi custom father and son should not have
the same name. Rabbi E. Silver responded that he could call his son Avraham
Yitzhak since this name was considered totally different from his own (Yitzhak
Isaac), and presented the above argument in substantiation of his
Rabbi Barukh Epstein and Rabbi E. Silver referenced
Deuteronomy 3:14: "Jair son of Manasseh received the whole Argob district
(that is, Bashan) as far as the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites,
and named it after himself (Heb. al shmo), Havvoth-jair - as is
still the case." Note that Scripture is precise in its choice of words,
saying al shmo, which might be rendered literally as "after
his name," as opposed to bi-shmo, which would be literally calling
it his name. This is to indicate that Havvoth Jair is named after
him but is not his actual name. Incidentally, I have not found this
linguistic distinction noted in dictionaries or other books on the Hebrew
language [nor is it made in the JPS translation].
To their remarks we can add the following texts:
(1) "Now Absalom, in his lifetime, had taken the pillar
which is in the Valley of the King and set it up for himself, for he said,
‘I have no son to keep my name alive.' He had named the pillar
after himself (al shmo), and it has been called Absalom's Monument
to this day" (II Sam. 18:18). In other words, since the site is called
Absalom's Monument (yad avshalom), there is an addition here to the
name Absalom, therefore Scriptures says al shmo, i.e., after or
recalling something of his name.
(2) Sometimes a name change can find expression in merely
adding letters; in such cases, too, Scriptures is precise and uses the phrase
al shmo. For example: "Then he bought the hill of Samaria from
Shemer for two talents of silver; he built [a town] on the hill and named the
town which he built Samaria, after (al shem) Shemer, the owner of the
hill" (I Kings 16:24). Likewise:
(3) "For that reason these days were named Purim, after
(al shem) ha-pur" (Esther 9:26). Here the difference
is between singular and plural.
(4) Indeed, in the text, "that place was named the wadi
Eshcol because of (Heb. al odot) the cluster (Heb. eshkol) that
the Israelites cut down there" (Num. 13:23), one could not use the
expression al shem because eshkol, or cluster, is not a proper
noun, nevertheless there is a similarity here in the choice of
It is worth closely studying the verse: (5) "They
bordered the lazuli stones with frames of gold, engraved with seal engravings of
the names (al shemot) the sons of Israel" (Ex. 39:6), and its
continuation: "The stones corresponded to the names (al shemot)
of the sons of Israel: twelve, corresponding to their names; engraved like
seals, each with its name, for the twelve tribes" (Ex. 39:14). This text
concerns writing the names of the tribes on stone, with no change in the names;
so why does it say al shem?
The answer is clear. The stones are not called by the names
of the tribes, nor are they named after the tribes. What Scripture meant was
that they were engraved like seals, on them being the names of the sons of
Israel; or, as in the second verse cited, on the stones were the names of the
sons of Israel, etc. The proof lies in the verses in which this action was
commanded, where it says: "Then take two lazuli stones and engrave on
them the names of the sons of Israel; six of their names on the one stone, and
the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their
birth" (Ex. 28:19), in other words, write the names on the
Similarly we can also resolve the difficulty in the following
verse: (6) "The gates of the city shall be - three gates on the
north - named for (al shemot) the tribes of Israel: the Reuben
Gate: one; the Judah Gate: one; the Levi Gate: one" (Ezek. 48:31). Here,
too, the intention of Scripture is that the names of the tribes be written on
the city gates; and the structure of the sentence is the same as we saw
The last verse remaining for discussion deals with levirate
marriage: (7) "The first son that she bears shall be accounted to the dead
brother (al shem), that his name may not be blotted out in
Israel" (Deut. 25:6). According to what we have found thus far, the plain
sense of the text might be an indication that the son who is born should not be
named exactly as the deceased brother, but that he be given a name that shows
some relationship to the name of the deceased.
The interpretation of this verse in the Talmud might be taken
in support of our theory (Yevamot 24a):
The rabbis taught: shall be accounted to the dead
- as regards inheritance. You might ask whether this regards
inheritance, or perhaps only name? [In other words, if the deceased had been
called] Joseph, then he is to be called Joseph; [if] Johanan, then he is called
Therefore it says, "shall be
accounted to his brother," and elsewhere it says, "they shall be
recorded (lit. called) instead of (al shem
) their brothers in their
inheritance" (Gen. 48:6). Just as inheritance is concerned there, so too,
inheritance is concerned here.
In other words, one could have said that the commandment was
to name the son after the deceased; however the Sages concluded that the
commandment did not concern the child's naming whatsoever, only that he be
given the inheritance of the deceased.
being the case, it is appropriate here to use the expression al shem,
We conclude with the term mentioned in the following verse:
"Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he then
founded a city, and named the city after (ke-shem) his son Enoch"
(Gen. 4:17). What is the difference between ke-shem (lit. "like
the name") and be-shem ("by the name")? The answer is
found in the following verse: "And they changed the name of Leshem to
Dan, after (ke-shem) their ancestor Dan" (Josh. 19:47). The same
subject is discussed in Judges, but there it says: "and they named the
town Dan, after (be-shem) their ancestor Dan" (Jud. 18:29).
Clearly there is no difference between be-shem and ke-shem.
Indeed, in both these verses the name was given with no change, and therefore
the term be-shem was certainly appropriate.
I used the edition of Rabbi
Judah Hasid's Testament which was printed in Sefer Hasidim
, ed. R.
Margaliyot, Jerusalem 1957, p. 17. Regarding the various approaches, see
Margaliyot's notes pertaining to everything mentioned in the Testament.
For variants of the Testament in manuscripts and printed editions, and other
subjects, see R. Shevet, Tzava'at Rabbi Judah he-Hasid
, Annual of Orot Yisrael College, 10 (1992) p. 82152.
A list of literature appears at the end of the article. The instruction we are
discussing appears on page 127, and the variants there are not
I shall not go into further
halakhic details, such as the question whether this proscription specifically
concerns do so in his mother's presence; what happens with nicknames;
This conclusion also holds
for place names. Joshua's oath, "Cursed of the Lord be the man who
shall undertake to fortify this city of Jericho" (Josh. 6:26), was
interpreted in Sahhedrin
113a as a proscription also against building a
different city by the name of Jericho. In modern times, a settlement named
Vered Jericho ("Rose of Jericho") was built. Without getting into
the general issue of whether Joshua's proscription still applies today,
which is a question in its own right, we note that in view of the point we have
made, there was no violation in calling a settlement Vered Jericho. This was
also noted by R. J. Schwartz, Tiferet Jericho
, Jerusalem 1994, p. 72,
although he presents no arguments in support.
notes, loc. sit.
, on the Sages who ruled this way, without any connection
to the evidence provided by the verses.
According to Rabbi D.
Eliakh, in Peninim mi-Shulhan Gavoha
, Jerusalem 1995, end of Parashat
Matot, where he notes that he heard this from Rabbi E. Ausband (my son, Boaz,
directed me to this source). Rabbi D. Eliakh adds that he heard from a rabbi in
Baltimore, who had heard the like attributed to the Rogatchover Gaon. Rabbi
Eliakh notes further that this was also published in the name of the Hazon Ish.
Indeed, I found an instruction in a similar matter in Sefer Pe'er
, a biography of the Hazon Ish, edited by R. S. Cohen, Bnai Brak 1973,
Part IV, p. 200, without citing proof from Scripture.
These examples do not
illustrate al shemo
, rather bi-shmo
. Perhaps the Sages were not
being precise about the choice of words here, since their discussion is aimed at
., proves this interpretation to be correct on the basis of Boaz's
words: "I am also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, as my
wife, so as to perpetuate the name of the deceased upon his estate, that the
name of the deceased may not disappear from among his kinsmen" (Ruth
4:10), but the son born to them was not called Mahlon, rather Obed.