Ask The Rabbi

Ask The Rabbi


Why these two names together?

The Rav Name: Rabbi Yitzchak Arad

My Hebrew name is נתן נטע. My question is: why are these two names often paired together? Possibly coming from the bracha said after reading the torah portion?

Why these two names together?

Shalom and thank you for your question. We do not have any information unfortunately which would confirm your theory about your name coming from the blessing said after reading the Torah. What we know is that European Jewish names are commonly paired with a Hebrew name followed by a Yiddish diminutive of the same name, for example, Tzvi Hirsh, Ze’ev Wolf, Aryeh Leib, and so on. For some reason this phenomenon is less common with women’s  names, although it also exists, for example, Shoshana Raizel.

My personal conjecture is that people wanted to base their names on the Torah and the holy tongue, but Yiddish was treasured as the language of communication so the Yiddish diminutive was added, and possibly used more on a day to day basis, while the entire name including the Hebrew source name was used for being called up to the Torah.

There are laws about giving two names if the two different names are commemorating two different people. Sometimes there are two names because a person was ill G-d forbid, and another name was added in order to prolong his or her life.

In this area there are many details and in any case of doubt a competent Rabbi should be consulted. There are some Rabbis who specialize more in this field and your Rabbi may refer you to such an expert.

Why indeed is a name so important and how can it help to prolong the life of a sick person? Chassidic teaching explains that G-d created, and constantly re-creates, the world by means of the Ten Utterances mentioned in the Torah, for example ‘Let there be light…’ The Hebrew letters that form these utterances are like a spiritual formula. They are the conduit for the spiritual energy that causes any created being or phenomena to exist. When Adam was created, G-d gave him the task of naming the entire animal kingdom. Adam, being the prototype soul of mankind, possessed the spiritual vision to be able to recognize the spiritual source of all those beings and name them accordingly. Likewise, it is said that parents receive a certain spirit of prophecy, ‘Ruach haKodesh’ when naming their child. A very moving story happened a few years ago when an orthodox couple in America gave birth to a boy. At the Brit Milah of the child, the father was asked to say the name as usual, and instead of saying the name that he and his wife had agreed upon, a totally different name came out of his mouth. Within a short time, the couple found out that a young Israeli soldier bearing that very name had been killed in action in a recent Israeli defence action.

Contact was made between the soldier’s parents and the young couple, and all were very moved at the Divine Providence which caused this special continuity in the Jewish nation.

In our family some of the children are named after ancestors, many of them with names involving animals as I mentioned above. The reason for this is that such names are often connected to the twelve tribes, which were symbolized by certain animals and their particular traits, for example, in Genesis 49:21 “Naftali is a swift gazelle.” If you look at that chapter of the blessings that Jacob gave to his sons you will see how the tribes are represented by the traits of certain animals and this is the origin of that genre of names.

I hope that this information has been helpful. If I misunderstood your question, please feel free to write back and we will try to clarify further for you.