The naming rights: Father versus mother, versus grandparents

* This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

The naming rights, father versus mother, versus grandparents:[1]

Background from Scripture: In scripture, we find that at times the name was given by father and at times that the name was given by the mother. For example, Scripture states that Abraham named his son Isaac.[2] On the other hand, regarding the names of the tribes it states that the mothers gave them all of their names [besides for Benjamin who was named by his father[3]].[4] In other areas of Scripture we find that the names were given by both the father and the mother.[5] In other areas of Scripture we find that the names were given by other people entirely[6], and not the parents. Practically, the Rebbe negated using these scriptural sources as a guiding principle for naming rights of a father versus the mother.[7] Nonetheless, some Mefarshim conclude that in times of Scripture the custom was for the father to name his first child, and for the mother to name the second child and for the father to then name the third child, and so on and so forth, with parents taking turns for naming rights for each subsequent child.[8] Other Mefarshim, however, possibly negate this.[9]

Parents versus grandparents:[10] The rights for naming a child belong solely to the parents, the father and mother, and not the grandparents. [Hence, if the parents were coerced into giving their child a name not of their liking due to pressure from their own parents, they are to reconvene to decide on an additional name to give the child. Nonetheless, they are not to heaven forbid nullify the name already given and blessed in a Mi Shebeirach and are simply to add another name to it.[11] Nonetheless, on one occasion, the Rebbe instructed an individual who wanted to name his child after one of the Rabbeim, in contrast to his father’s wishes who wanted him to name the child after his grandfather, that out of Kibbud Av Vaeim he should listen to the request of his father, and he may then add whatever other name he wants to his grandfather’s name.[12] Hence, it seems that in times of need and for the purpose of Shalom Bayis the Rebbe suggested both allowing the grandfather to choose the name and to also add to the name of the Rabbeim, unlike that which was stated above.[13]]

Father versus mother:[14] In an area without a set custom to the contrary[15], then one should follow the order of having the father choose the name for the first child and the mother for the second child, with the parents taking turns for naming rights for each subsequent child.[16] Nonetheless, whatever name is chosen by the given parent must be mutually agreed upon by the other parent as the name chosen for a child must be accepted by both parents.[17] In the event that an agreement cannot be reached between the two parents, then they are to consult with  the local community Rav and obey his directive.[18] [One option to solving the dispute is to call the child by both names.[19] In the event that one of the parents of the couple passed away before the birth, then one should give precedence to naming the child after that parent, irrelevant of whose turn it is for the naming.[20]]  

Quarreling over the name:[21] Quarrelling and fighting in the home of a woman after birth causes danger to the newborn child, and hence the parents are to beware not to quarrel over the name.

Having one’s Rabbi and Rebbe name the child:[22] One’s Rabbi or Rebbe should not be the one to choose the name for the child, as stated above that the naming responsibility belongs specifically to the parents.


[1] See Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:97; Igros Kodesh 5:123; 9:136; 13:146; Shulchan Menachem 5:153-154; Koveitz Or Yisrael Gilyon 47 p. 212; Ziv Hasheimos 1:6; Nitei Gavriel 71:3

[2] Vayeira 22:14

[3] See Igros Kodesh 5:123; Ramban Vayishlach 35:18; See Hearos Ubiurim Ohalei Torah 931:22 who discusses the question of why Levi was not mentioned by the rebbe as part of this list of exceptions, as seemingly he was named by his father and not his mother.

[4] Vayeitzei 29:32-33

[5] For example: Seth [Bereishis 4:25 writes the mother called him by the name, while Bereishis 5:3 states that the father called him by this name] Yishmael [Lech Licha 16:11 states that Hagar called them by this name while Lech Licha 16:15 states that Abraham called him by this name; See Ramban on 16:11]

[6] For example: Zerach and Peretz [Vayeishev 38:28-30; See Radak ibid; Targum Yonason ibid; Hearos Ubiurim Ohalei Torah 932:31]; Oveid [Rus 4:17]; Shmuel 2 12:24-25 [See Radak ibid]

[7] Igros Kodesh 5:123

[8] See Hadar Zekeinim and Daas Zekeinim on Bereishis 38:5

[9] See Ramban on Bereishis 38:5; Igros Kodesh 5:123 that although he negates their explanation on the verse it is possibly that he does not disagree with the concept

[10] Igros Kodesh 5:123; 8:191; See Sefer Hagilgulim Hakdama 23 and many other books of Chassidus and Kabbalah that it is the parents who name the child with divine inspiration from God; See Toras Menachem Reshimos Hayoman p. 317 that the Alter Rebbe refused to name his grandson, the son of the Tzemach Tzedek, and told him that it is the father who must name the child.

[11] Igros Kodesh 8:191

[12] Neilcha Beorchosav p. 235, brought in Shulchan Menachem 5:160; Hiskashrus 356:19

[13] Hiskashrus ibid

[14] See Igros Kodesh 5:123; Shut Rivam Shteinuch 58; Shevach Habris 20:4; Nitei Gavriel 71:5

[15] Other customs: Some have the custom of having the mother choose the name for the first child and the father for the second child, with the parents taking turns for naming rights for each subsequent child [See Likkutei Mahrich Seder Millah; Nachal Kedumim Shemos 18; Mishneh Halachos 12:361; Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:101; Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 8 in name of Sefarim and that so is the Ashkenazi custom] See for other customs: Bris Avos 8:35; Edus Leyisrael p. 193; Otzer Habris 6:3-1

[16] Leket Yosher 2:51; Rashbash 291; Igros Kodesh 5:123; Shevach Habris 20:4; See Ikarei Hadat Y.D. 27:7 that the custom is to name the first son after his father; Sdeh Haretz Y.D. 22; Shem Mishimon Y.D. 22; Yabia Omer 5:21 that so is custom of Sephardim; Many Sefarim in Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 7

[17] Igros Kodesh 12:434; 13:146; 27:523; Shevach Habris 20:5; See Sefer Hatoldos Chabad Maharash p. 7 that the Tzemach Tzedek consulted with his wife regarding the name of the Rebbe Maharash on the day of the Bris

[18] Igros Kodesh 27:523; Otzer Minhagim Vehoraos Y.D. 186; Shevach Habris 20:5

[19] See Ikarei Hadaat 26:7; Rashal in Yam Shel Shlomo Gittin 4:26 that this is how the name Shneur came about, as it came to satisfy the names of two grandparents, Meir and Uri; Ben Ish Chaiy Shoftim 1:27; Nitei Gavriel 71:7

[20] Shut Rivam Shteinuch 58; Nitei Gavriel 71:5

[21] Reishis Chochma Shaar Hakedusha 16; Yosef Ometz in end; Tziporen Shamir 186; Kaf Hachaim 116:107; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 145:1; Nitei Gavriel 63:7; Shevach Habris 20:6

[22] Igros Kodesh 6:4 and 9:136 that so was the directive of Rebbe Rayatz; Maaneh Melech p. 176; Shevach Habris 20:3 footnote 3; See Toras Menachem Reshimos Hayoman p. 317 that the Alter Rebbe refused to name his grandson, the son of the Tzemach Tzedek, and told him that it is the father who must name the child

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