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 under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's International Center for Jewish Identity.
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Inquiries and comments to: Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible, gottlii@mail.biu.ac.il


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 he wrote:[1] 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 hope."

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 halakhah, a person is not to call his own mother by her given name.[2] Some people say this is also a matter of modesty, lest he call to his bride and his mother think he had meant her.

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 applies?

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 name.[3]

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 names.[4]

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.[5] 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 view.

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 preposition.
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 stones.

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 above.

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 brother - 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 Johanan.[6] 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.[7] That being the case, it is appropriate here to use the expression al shem, not be-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.

[1] 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," Tallelei Orot, 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 significant.
[2] 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; etc.
[3] 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.
[4] See Margaliyot's notes, loc. sit., on the Sages who ruled this way, without any connection to the evidence provided by the verses.
[5] 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 ha-Dor, a biography of the Hazon Ish, edited by R. S. Cohen, Bnai Brak 1973, Part IV, p. 200, without citing proof from Scripture.
[6] 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 another point.
[7] Nahmanides, loc. sit., 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.