An Anthology of Chabad-Lubavitch Customs
Regarding Pregnancy, Childbirth, Circumcision,
Redemption of the Firtsborn, and the Birth of Girls
Compiled By Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Holtzberg from The Wrintings of the Rebbeim of Lubavitch
Translated by Shimon Neubort
Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
(718) 778-5436 • info@SichosInEnglish.org • FAX (718) 735-4139
In this chapter we present only customs involving the naming of newborn children
- Regarding which one of the parents the privilege of giving a name belongs to — I have not heard an explicit ruling on this. My opinion is that in places where there is no established custom, the names should be given in alternating order: the first name belongs to the father, the second name belongs to the mother, the third name again to the father, etc.
- The name should be given by agreement of both parents together.
- If a child has been given two names, and afterwards they remember that the child's grandfather bears one of these two names, the child should not be called by the two names jointly, but only by the other name [not shared by the grandfather]. (The same applies to the name in English.) 
- The name should be given by the father and mother, as is stated in various seforim. The parents may, however, allow someone else to give the name, acting as their agent. If in fact it has not been done this way (and instead the name was given by the grandmother or the like without the parents' permission), the parents must decide on the particular name they wish. If a name was already given during a Mi Shebeirach, the name should not be canceled (G-d forbid), but another name can be added.
- It is the common practice to disregard the passage in the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid concerning calling someone by the name Yehudah or Shmuel; in fact, the Testament itself implies this. In addition, many precautions mentioned in the Testament were meant only for his own descendants; and in fact, we know that Maharsha was his descendant, and yet his name was Shmuel, and his father's name was Yehudah.
- Regarding naming of a child after a grandfather who is still living: Generally speaking, the customs differ between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Among Sephardim, not only are they not careful to avoid naming a child after a living person, but just the reverse — naming the child after his living grandfather is regarded as an honor for the grandfather; thus, when the child's father wishes to honor his own father, he names his son after his father while he is still living. But among Ashkenazim, we are scrupulous not to name the child after a living grandfather (rather, we name him only after someone who has already passed away). It is known that the very fact that we are particular about something causes it to have an [undesirable] effect. Therefore, we must be careful about it.
- It is the custom among chassidim to name their children after their Rebbeim and Rebbetzins.
- Regarding names given after the Nesi'im, my father-in-law objected to combining such a name with another name, for we do not mix together what is holy with what is common.
- Regarding naming a child after one's father [i.e., the child's grandfather] who disappeared during war: [there is no objection to this] if the father and mother both agree to it.
- (Back to text) Not adopted children, converts, or sick people whose name is being changed.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 5, p. 123:
Regarding this matter itself — in general, the giving of a name is a major undertaking, and involves a great responsibility. Chassidus explains in many places that the name is the conduit through which life-force and other powers are infused into the object called by that name (for details, see final section of Introduction to Shaloh; Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, end of Ch. 1; Likkutei Torah, Behar on verse Es Shabsosai, sec. 2; etc.). Therefore, AriZal writes, "When a person is born and his father and mother give him his name ... the Holy One puts into their mouth the particular name required for that soul" (Sefer HaGilgulim, Introduction 23; Emek HaMelech, Shaar 1, end of Ch. 4; Or HaChayim on Devarim 29:17)...
Cf. the commentaries of Rishonim (Hadar Zekeinim, Daas Zekeinim, et. al) on Bereishis 38:5, the verse, "and he was in Keziv when she gave birth to him": the custom was that the first name belonged to the father, the second name belonged to the mother, and the third name belonged to the father; this is the meaning of the verse, "and she called his name..."; because Yehudah was in Keziv when she gave birth [therefore he was unable to give the name in his turn]. Therefore in my opinion, in places where there is no established custom, then according to the above, the giving of names should follow this sequence. Now even though Ramban rejects this interpretation, he is only saying that Scripture here does not intend to give support to the custom, but there is no indication that he disagrees with the Rishonim [that this indeed was the custom]. See also Ikkarei Hadas, Yoreh De'ah 27:107, who mentions the custom that a man names his firstborn son after his father...
In my opinion we can draw no inference from Scripture where we occasionally find that children were named sometimes by the father and sometimes by the mother. For example, regarding the tribes it is written "and she called his name..." In fact, all the names of the tribes (except Binyamin) were given by their mothers, and it makes no sense to say that the names of all sons belongs to the mother and the father has no part in it, especially since we do find children named by their father, and occasionally even by both together (Yishmael, Binyamin) or even by outsiders (Zerach, Peretz, Oved). Cf. II Shmuel 12:24-25.
Possibly the reason why the tribes were named by Rachel and Leah is in keeping with the teaching of the Sages (Bereishis Rabbah, end of 72), "the Matriarchs were prophetesses, and the Patriarchs were inferior to them in prophecy" as it says, "everything that Sarah says to you, hearken unto her voice" (Shemos Rabbah, ch. 1; see also Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim on verse Kol Dodi, sec. 4). Also the names of Yitzchak and Esav were apparently given by Sarah (Bereishis 21:6) and Rivkah (Rashi, ibid., 25:26; according to Midrash Tanchuma, Shemos 4).
See also Bris Avos 2:35, Makor U'Biur Halachah p. 319, par. 25; What's in a Name? 1:3; Otzar HaBris 6:3, and sources cited by therein.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 13, p. 146.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 7, p. 286:
I am somewhat puzzled by what you write, that the grandson of Shalom Moshe HaKohen (who is still living) has been named Yosef Moshe. Perhaps this is a misprint; or perhaps the grandfather has long ago ceased to be called by the name Moshe. If this is not the case, then it would be appropriate that — without making any fuss about it — to arrange it so that the grandson's principal name should be Yosef. This also applies to the name in English.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 8, p. 191.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaBris, Makor UBiur Halachah, p. 319, par. 25, citing Koheles Rabbah 7:3: "It has been taught: the man is called by three names; one that his father and mother call him, and one that he has been called in the book of the history of his birth."
- (Back to text) See supra, note 1, where instances are mentioned when the name was given by others, not the parents.
- (Back to text) See What's in a Name?, Ch. 1, end of par. 10.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 9, p. 262.
- (Back to text) It was written as a letter to someone who was himself named Yehudah.
- (Back to text) See also Bris Avos 8:12; What's in a Name?, Ch. 22, note 4, referencing Responsa Noda BiYehudah 2nd Ed., Even HaEzer 79 and Responsa Divrei Chayim, Even HaEzer 8. See also Likkutei Halachos on the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid 60:69. See Also Otzar HaBris 6:18:2, and references listed there.
- (Back to text) In Hisvaadiyos 5743, Vol. 2, p. 760 it states that the ruling on this depends on the situation of the one who inquires, i.e., the group to which he belongs, and the place where he lives, etc., for there are different customs in this regard.
A certain Jew once asked me, how is it possible that I replied to someone (who is from a Sephardic community) that he could name his son after his father who is still living, when in fact the Ashkenazim are careful not to do this? I answered him: how can I ignore such a custom, when it is related explicitly in Chumash (end of Parshas Noach) that Terach named his son Nachor after his father who was still alive, as we can calculate from the numbers stated in those verses.
See also Bris Avos 5:16-17; Sefer HaBris, Makor U'Biur Halachah, p. 315, par. 16; Ziv HaShemos, Ch. 10, par. 1-2, and references cited there; Otzar HaBris, Ch. 6, par. 4, 11, and cited references.
- (Back to text) See Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 156, regarding the birth of the Mitteler Rebbe, who was named Dov Ber, after (the Alter Rebbe's, Rebbe,) the Maggid of Mezritch. See also Sefer HaMaamarim 5709, p. 90, regarding the Alter Rebbe's second son, whom he named (Chayim) Avraham after his Rebbe, R. Avraham HaMalach. There is written the story explaining why he was given the additional name Chayim. See Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 6, p. 108. See Sefer HaBris, Makor U'Biur Halachah, p. 320, par. 26; Zocher HaBris 24:4, who also quotes Noam Elimelech on Bamidbar: "If they give him the name of a tzaddik who has already lived in this world, this will cause him also to become a tzaddik, because it has aroused the soul of the departed tzaddik in the Supernal World. See also What's in a Name? 9:1, and references cited there.
- (Back to text) See the Sichah of Shabbos Parshas Yisro, 22 Shvat 5749 (Sefer HaSichos 5749, Vol. 1, p. 236) regarding naming children after the tzidkanis, Rebbetzin Chayah Mushka:
"And the living shall take it to their heart," by demonstrating that "her children are living" (and thus, "she is living") through learning of her deeds and behaving in her spirit, etc., with mesirus nefesh. And even more so through naming a girl after her and bringing her up in her spirit. This is the most direct way of accomplishing "her children are living and thus she too is living." By this means there will be an actual increase in the length of the girl's life ("chayah"), long and good years.
See also Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 2, p. 317:
I have learned through your brother that a daughter was born to you, and later [I learned] that she has been named Rachel [after the Rebbe's maternal grandmother, wife of R. Shlomo Yanovsky of Nikolayev], and I hereby send my thanks for that.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 12, p. 215. Also, Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. 9, p. 214, regarding a person whose grandfather's name had been Yechiel Dov, and [then naming his child after this grandfather] he wished to have in mind that the name Dov would be after the Rebbe Rashab. The reply to this was: "Do not do it and do not have this in mind, for we do not mix together what is holy with what is common." See also Bris Avos 8:39.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 12, p. 434. See Otzar HaBris, 6:7:3, and references cited there.