It is Wise to Regard Your Name: The Name Determines Destiny Entirely

by tillerofthesoil

Anthony WeinerIt is wise to regard your name (Micah 6:9).

“The name determines destiny entirely” (Zohar 1:60a).

“From where do we know that a name proves decisive? Rabbi El’azar said, ‘For Scripture states: Go, gaze upon the acts of YHWH, who has brought שַׁמּוֹת (shammot), desolations, on earth (Psalms 46:9)—do not read שַׁמּוֹת (shammot), desolations, but שֵׁמּוֹת (shemot), names’” (BT Berakhot 7b).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘Four things tear up a person’s verdict: charity, crying out, change of name, and change of conduct” (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 16b).

“Names… with which people may be adorned and with which they may perform action in the world” (Zohar 2:223a).

“Six were called by their name before they were born, and they are: Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Solomon, Josiah, and King Messiah” (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 32, cf. JT Berakhot 1, 4a; Mekhilta, Bo 21:16; Bereshit Rabbah 45:11).

“The name proves decisive, and the combination of letters with one another causes a phenomenon, either for good or for evil. Based upon this mystery is the permutation of letters of holy names, and letters themselves cause holy mysteries to appear—like the Holy Name, whose letters themselves cause holy mysteries to appear within them” (Zohar 2:179b).

“We have said that everything that the blessed Holy One brought into His world is a name [derived] from its עִנְיָן (inyan), task. Concerning this it is written, And whatever the human called a living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19)—its body was so. And how do we know that its name is its body? As is written: The memory of the righteous is for a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot (Proverbs 10:7)—what rots, his name or his body? Here too, its body. What is an example of this? שׁוֹרֶשׁ (Shoresh), root—the letter ש (shin) looks like the roots of a tree, and the root of every tree is bent [thus the ר (resh) is bent]” (Bahir §80-§81).

“Concerning former ones it is said: The memory of the righteous is for a blessing (Proverbs 10:7), with regard to Son of Kamzar and his like it is said: But the name of the wicked will rot (ibid.)—Rabbi El’azar said: Rottenness enters their names, none name their children after them.

Ravina raised an objection: The story of דֹּאֵג (Doeg) [lit., worry], son of Yosef whom his father left to his mother when he was a young child [this Doeg was named so in spite of Doeg the Edomite who was responsible for the deaths of a large number of priests, see 1 Samuel 21-22, cf. Psalms 52]: Every day his mother would measure him by handbreadths and would give his [extra] weight in gold to the Sanctuary. But when the enemy prevailed, she slaughtered him and ate him [cf. Leviticus 26:29], and concerning her Jeremiah lamented: Shall the women eat their fruit, the children of their tender care? (Lamentations 2:20, cf. ibid., 4:10). Whereupon the Holy Spirit replied: Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of YHWH? (ibid.)—see what happened to him! [normally, none would name their child after a wicked person, because of a bad omen, or because one should help the name of the wicked to rot by being forgotten; look what this deviation from custom brought upon the child]” (BT Yoma 38b).

“Once Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose were on a journey together. Now Rabbi Meir deduced from names but Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose did not deduce from names. They came to a certain place and looked for lodging, and as they were given it, they said to him [the innkeeper]: What is your name?—He replied: Kidor. Then he [Rabbi Meir] said: From this it is evident that he is a wicked man, for it is said: כִּי דוֹר תַּהְפֻּכֹת (kidor tahpukhot), for a wayward brood are they, [children with no trust in them] (Deuteronomy 32:20). Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yose entrusted their purses to him [since the Sabbath was approaching]; Rabbi Meir did not entrust his purse to him, but went and placed it on the grave of that man’s father. Thereupon the man had a vision in his dream [saying]: Go, take the purse lying at the head of this man! In the morning he [the innkeeper] told them about it, saying: This is what appeared to me in my dream. They replied to him: There is no substance in the dream of the Sabbath night. Rabbi Meir went, waited there all day, and then took the purse with him. In the morning they [the rabbis] said to him: ‘Give us our purses.’ He said: There never was such a thing! Rabbi Meir then said to them: Why don’t you deduce from names? They said: Why have you not told this [before]. He answered: consider this but a suspicion. I would not consider that a definite presumption!

Thereupon they took him [the innkeeper] into a shop and gave him wine to drink. Then they saw lentils on his moustache. They went to his wife and gave her that as a sign, and thus obtained their purses and took them back [telling her that her husband had sent them for the purses and giving her as a proof the fact that lentils had been the last meal in her house]. Whereupon he went and killed his wife… At the end they, too, paid close attention to people’s names. And when they called to a house whose [owner’s] name was בָּלָה (Balah), they would not enter, saying: He seems to be a wicked man, as it is written: Then said I לַבָּלָה (la-balah), to her, that was old in adulteries, [Will they now commit prostitutions with her, and she with them?] (Ezekiel 23:43)” (BT Yoma 83b).

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