Halachic Considerations for a Name Change

Question:

Are there any halachic considerations that should be considered when I change my last name?


Answer: The concept of a last name is non-Jewish in origin. It came into being about 220 years ago, when European governments decided to enforce the use of last names. Jews were always called so-and-so the son of so-and-so and/or so-and-so from such-and-such a place. One possibility is to choose a name which is somehow connected to your ancestry.

Regarding Gittin (bills of divorce) we find that the husband and wife must be referred to by their name and the place of their residence, e.g. Shim’on of Jerusalem, Hedhwa of Rehovoth etc. See Mishna Gittin 8:4 (or 8:5; in Talmudh Bavli 80a). If this is not done, the get is invalid. (See Mishne Tora of Rambam, Gittin, 3:15 [or 3:13]). The Maharal zs”l explains that a person’s place of residence is considered an integral part of that person, because a person must exist somewhere. Thus that “place” is part of his or her being. It is also due to the fact that every person has a place where he or she belongs and fits in and feels at home (see Derekh Hayim of the Maharal on Avoth 3:4). Based on the above I would suggest you consider a name that is somehow associated with your place of residence (or a place where you would like to reside in the future). I do not feel that this decision requires approaching a reputed mekubal (kabbalist).


Friday, 03 April 2009

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