Naming a Child After a Rebbe and Living Grandparent

Ask the Rov: Can I name my child after a Rebbe if a living grandparent has one of that Rebbe’s names?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah.

Can I name my child after a Rebbe if a living grandparent has one of that Rebbe’s names?

When choosing a name for one’s child, it is customary to name the baby after one’s ancestors, as this displays honor for one’s parents, and it is a segula for long life.

While Sefardim name after a living grandparent as a sign of respect, and they view it as a segula for arichus yamim for the grandparent, Ashkenazim are cautious not to name after a living person. Reasons include that it poses danger for the living person as if the newborn came in his place, or that it shouldn’t chas v’shalom appear as anticipating the namesake’s passing. If the person passed away shortly after a child was born, his name may be given once he is buried.

Some hold that if the grandfather gives permission to give his name to the baby, the concern doesn’t exist. Moreover, if the living relative has two names, some hold that the baby may be given one of them, as it is considered a different name. It is preferable to also give the baby an additional name and call the child by that other name. The Rebbe mentioned this idea of not using the name of the living relative in situations when the name was given by mistake and it was only realized afterwards.

Another important custom is to give a name after tzadikim. Since Hashem decided that this name should be of a tzadik, this helps the namesake to also be a tzadik. Additionally, the child is inspired when he knows after whom he is named. The Rebbe mentions that it is preferable not to combine the name of a tzadik with the name of a relative.

Which parent chooses the names for which child?

According to some, the mother names the first child, while others hold that the father does. In some communities, the father decides the boys’ names while the mother decides the girls’ names. From the Rebbe it seems that wherever there is no established custom, the first name is chosen by the father. Of course, it should be a joint decision.

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