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Two Names

Unacceptable; the Change; and it’s History

Nowadays, it is not unusual to find someone who has two names.  However, about three hundred years ago this was an unusual phenomenon.  Most people had one name and possibly a nickname.

You may be thinking that you are aware of many gedolei Yisroel with two names: The Apter Rav, the Berditchever Rav, the rebbe of Lublin, the Ropshitzer Rav.  Two hundred years before that period, you have the Maharsha, the Birkas Hazevach, the Kli Yakar, and many more.

Yet, If we go back early in history and open the Tanach, we will not find anyone with two names.  Even when Yaakov received the name Yisroel it was on the condition “that your name will no longer be called Yaakov, Yisroel will be your given name, and his name was Yisroel.” It was either Yaakov or Yisroel, it was not Yaakov Yisroel.  Also, the judges, prophets, Anshei Knesses Hagedolah, Tannaim, Amoraim, Gaonim, and even the Rishonim only had one name.

A Single Name for Two – ShneiOhr

This was not an accident.  People were purposely given only one name.  It is known that the Maharshal brings from the editor of the Maharil who relates the following:1Yam Shel Shlomo, Gittin, chapter 4.

A son was born to my grandfather, R’ Menachem Tzion.  My grandfather’s father was named R’ Meir and his father-in-law was called R’ Uri.  There was a difference of opinion between R’ Menachem Tzion and his wife about which name to give the child and each wanted to give the name of their own father.  So the couple compromised and named the baby Shneur which means “shnei ohr,” two lights, as Meir means light and Uri means light.

If there was not a stricture about giving two names they could have named the baby Meir Uri.  However, that was not a solution because only one name was allowed to be given.  (The name Tzion seems to be the family name of his grandfather).

But what about the aforementioned gedolei Yisroel? Didn’t the Maharsha have two names, Shmuel Eliezer? Didn’t the Birkas Hazevach have two names, Shmuel Aharon? The Kli Yakar, Shlomo Efraim? The answer is simple.  They were not given two names at their bris.  The Maharsha was given only Shmuel, the Birkas Hazevach only Aharon, and the Kli Yakar only Efraim.  Their second names were added later in their lives.  Why? Today we know that when one is unfortunately very ill, there is a segulah to add a name.  This minhag is a fairly new one, since originally when this occurred, the name was changed and it was called “shinui hashem,” changing the name, and not “hosafas hashem,” adding to the name.

Two names!? – One in a Thousand!

Let us review the words of the Rabbi Zalman Margulies of Brody (1762–1828) who said:2In his preface to his sefer Tiv Gittin.

See something new in our times, whereas in previous generations there was no one called by two names, possibly one in a thousand.  See in the sefer Nachlas Shiva that the Maharsha, the Ollelos Efraim, and the Birkas HamZevach signed with two names, and that was because their names were changed due to illness.

Eliezer was the new name of the Maharsha, since as we mentioned earlier, his father gave him the name Shmuel.  When his name was changed, he was just called Eliezer, but because people didn’t have family names in those times, they used the name Shmuel for identification purposes.  So, because of a name change, he dropped the name Shmuel and from that day forward was known as Eliezer.  The Ollelos Efraim writes in the forward to his sefer Kli Yakar, “I have fallen into a sick bed for many weeks until they added the name Shlomo, and with Hashem’s help, He will remove me from this.”

The Nachlas Shiva, when discussing the changing of names, asks which name should appear first, the new one or the old one? It appears that the gedolei Yisroel did not have a specific policy as to which name they mentioned first.  The Maharsha signed his name Shmuel Eliezer, with his old name first, while the Kli Yakar signed Shmuel Efraim with his new name first.  R’ Zalman Margulies writes3Tiv Gittin, Sheimos Anashim, Yud:9. that the procedure for adding a name was to open a chumash or Tanach and the first name that appeared was adopted as the new name.  This means that the new name will always be a name from the Tanach, and might well be an uncommon name such as Noach, Manoach, Zevulun, Kalev, etc.  This procedure also made it likely that the name Moshe was often the one added since it appears many times in Tanach.

Although a father and son cannot have the same name unless the father was niftar before the baby had a bris, when adding or changing a name, people were not so particular about it.

Rabbi [Avraham] Yehoshua Heschel

The Apter Rav was named Avraham Yehoshua Heschel after his grandfather, R’ Yehoshua Heschel of Cracow.  All the other grandchildren, who were named for the same grandfather, however, were only called Yehoshua Heschel, such as, for example, R’ Yehoshua Heschel of Tarnopol.  Why the difference? The answer is that the name of the original Yehoshua Heschel, after whom they were named, was changed, since we find that towards the end of his life he signed his name as Avraham Yehoshua Heschel.

But, if that’s the case, why weren’t the other grandchildren called Avraham Yehoshua Heschel like their grandfather, who, after all, had changed his name? The correct answer is that even when a grandchild is named for a grandfather whose name was already changed, the baby is only given the original name that the grandfather received at his bris.

The Original Name is…

Take, for example, the Maharsha, whose original name was Shmuel and his added name was Eliezer.  In the sefer Chosem Y”Y there is a story of a mohel, who split his holy work with another mohel, with one doing the milah and the other the priya.  What happens when the bris falls on Shabbos? He writes that the bris of his own son Shmuel, who he named after the Maharsha, (because he was a descendant,) was on Shabbos.  The Rav of the congregation was the mohel and said that when the Maharsha was Rav here in Lublin he ruled that on Shabbos there should only be one mohel.  We see from this that he named the baby Shmuel, because that was the original name of his grandfather, the Maharsha.

The Baal Shem Tov’s Father-in-Law

The same was true with the Apter Rav who was named for his grandfather, R’ Yehoshua Heschel, who later had the name Avraham added due to illness.  Thus, on the Apter’s Rav’s tenaim, his name reads only Yehoshua Heschel.4Yivo Bletter, vol. XXXVI, NY 1952, page 119. Another interesting fact: In the Shulchan Aruch it is ruled5Shulchan Aruch, EH 129:18. that when one adds a name to a person because of an illness, the new name should come first.  The gedolei Yisroel who had two names were called by one name, and it was the original name they had been given.  Take for example R’ Yaakov Yitzchok, the Rebbe of Lublin.  He was called R’ Itzikel Lantziter and the name Yaakov was given later, since it is said that his grandfather R’ Yaakov Koppel Likower, was alive and attended his wedding.  In the sefer Shivchei Baal Shem Tov, the name of the Baal Shem Tov’s father-in-law, R’ Avraham, is mentioned only once.  But in all the biographical works, the father of R’ Gershon Kitover, whose sister married the Baal Shem Tov, appears as R’ Efraim.

The explanation is that research has found R’ Gershon to have signed his name as Avraham Gershon despite the fact that his father lived many years after his birth.  The research assumes the father’s name could not have been Avraham, so it is surmised that it is Efraim, based on the fact that R’ Gershon had a son with the name Efraim and the Bal Shem Tov had a grandson with the name Efraim, the Degel Machane Efraim.  However, based on what was said earlier, it may be that the name Avraham was added later to R’ Gershon Kitover, possibly during his father’s lifetime or later.  The fact that he was called Gershon is a clue that the name Avraham was added later.

A New era – two names

When did the era of two names begin? R’ Zalman Margulies of Brody said it occurred in his times, and in his sefer he has an entire chapter dedicated to the new phenomenon of two names.  This did not only change for the Ashkenazic Jews but in the same era, also began to appear on the Italian scene.  In the sefer Ikrei Hadat from R’ Daniel Tirani he writes about a situation in a place, where, it was traditional to name a first child after the father’s side but the wife wanted to give a name for her father and her husband wanted to give in to her for the sake of shalom bayis.  The Rav was asked and said the minhag may not be changed because then his father’s honor will be besmirched.  However, if the wife is stubborn, they should call the child by both names, as it has become normal for many people to give two names to their sons and daughters.

He adds an unknown piece of information from Rav Hachasid that if someone has children who die, he should give the newborns two names, as it is a segulah that they will live.

2 Names = 1!

Let us return to our subject matter, which is, if someone has two names in the situation of a kallah and her mother-in-law.  R’ Zalman Margulies writes that if someone is given two names at birth and is called both names, he is called to the Torah reading by both names and writes his signature with both names.  For example Avraham Yitzchok, Sara Rivka, and the like.  One should not write “d’miskari” between the two names, which means “he is called,” because it is one name and he is called both when he is oleh to the Torah and when he signs his name.  If he should write d’miskari, one might assume he is sometimes called one name and other times the other name.

When someone has two names it really means he has only one, “shem chad hu,” which technically has two words.  When it comes to the topic of kallah and her mother-in-law, it cannot be the same name at all because it is really one name.  However, if both have two names but are called just one name and that particular name is identical, then it would be a problem.

Exact, But Not Exact, is Just Fine

If someone should add one name to another name, for example, if R’ Yitzchok gives a name for his father Avraham but for some reason he adds another name and gives his son the name Avraham Yaakov, some will say that his son is not named for his grandfather at all.  But this is not correct, because when naming after someone, it is not necessary to use the exact words of the name.

We see this idea in the Beis Shmuel, who brings an interesting psak from the Maharshal.  It says that when writing the name Avraham, one must write Avraham and not Avram because all Avrahams are named for Avraham Avinu and Hashem said, “You should not be called Avram, your name should be Avraham.”

The Maharshal qualifies this by saying, this is only if there is no kabbalah in the family to call the child Avram for whatever reason.  It can also happen that a man’s father is alive and his name is Avraham.  His wife’s father, who was also Avraham was niftar, and he wants to name his son, for his father-in-law, so he gives the name Avram instead.  But this creates a quandary: If we say that the name Avram is not the same as Avraham, then he has actually not named his son, for his father-in-law, and if it is the same, then it is also his father’s name, which should not be given during his lifetime.  The Maharshal writes, however, that Avram is indeed the same name as Avraham, but it is different enough so that it is not considered giving the name Avraham during his own father’s lifetime.

We see from the Maharshal that a name does not have to be completely the same as the one it is being given for, because even when one gives a partial name it is as though he has given the full name.

Image Information:
Title: Olelos Ephraim
Author: Rabbi (Shlomo) Ephraim Lüntschitz
Printing location & year: Lublin 1590
Notes: The author with his original name only
Credit: Courtesy of Kedem Auction House Ltd
Image Information:
Title: Kli Yakar
Author: Rabbi [Shlomo] Ephraim Lüntschitz
Printing location & year: Lublin 1602
Notes: The athor with both names
Credit: National Library of Israel

This discussion is only intended to cover the various situations that arise regarding this topic, not to render halachic conclusions.  In practice, one should conduct himself according to his family minhag and ask daas Torah in every situation.      

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