Jewish Rights to Name Child

Question to Rabbi Menachem M Bluming: We haven’t officially named our firstborn daughter yet. We have a problem. I always wanted to name her after my grandmother. But my wife doesn’t like that name. She wants some other name which is nice, but I think it lacks any real meaning for the family. Doesn’t it say somewhere that the father has the right to choose the firstborn’s name?

Here’s a thought:

I’m not sure you want to know the answer to that.

There is indeed a custom in some communities of alternating the right to name a child between the parents. According to one Ashkenazi custom, the mother names the firstborn child, the father the second and so on. But some Sefardi communities have the father choosing the name for the first son, and then the mother the second son, while all daughters are named by the mother.

In your case, following either system, your wife gets to name this child.

But there is a different approach. These systems were only enacted to avoid intractable arguments between parents. That’s not the ideal way to name a child. It is far better that both agree on a name together rather than one having to reluctantly concede to the other’s wish.

The need for consensus is indicated in the writings of Kabbalah, which state, “When a father and mother give a name to their child, they are given a prophecy to choose the right name to fit the soul of the child.” This implies that the prophecy comes when there is agreement between the parents, and both are happy with the name.

This is just the first of many disagreements you will have with your wife in parenting your child. Inevitably there will be times when you will want to do things one way, and your wife will have a different approach. You could alternate the decision making, so one day you get your way and the kids are allowed to drink Coke, and the next day your wife is in charge and they only get water. One day bed time is optional and the next it is strictly enforced.

But think what this will do to your child. She needs parents who are united and working as a team, with one voice and one standard. When there are cracks in the parents’ unity, kids slip between those cracks.

Consider your child’s needs before your own, and give her a name that is meaningful, comfortable, and acceptable to you both. May this be the first of many harmonious compromises you make for your children.

Menachem Mendel Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Converting to Judaism

Menachem Mendel Bluming received this question this week:

I am angry. I was brought up Jewish, attended a Jewish school, and have only known Judaism as my religion. Now I am told I have to convert, because my mother never formally became Jewish. Isn’t it a little unfair that all my life I was more Jewish than my friends, was subjected to anti-Semitism, and then I am told I need to convert?!

Here’s a thought:

I completely understand your frustration. It can’t be easy to hear that you need to convert to your own religion. But please don’t take it personally. This is not a reflection on you. The entire Jewish nation went through exactly what you are going through now.

After leaving Egypt, where they suffered as slaves and were tormented for being Jewish, the Israelites reached Mount Sinai. There they were told they had to formally accept the Torah, and convert to Judaism by immersing in a mikvah.

They could’ve had the same complaint as yours. We’ve always been Jewish, we have even suffered for it, and now we’re told we need to become Jewish?!

Indeed they were already Jewish in the ethnic sense, they were born into the Jewish clan, but they had not yet committed to the Jewish mission. Only by sincerely accepting the Torah did they take on the complete Jewish identity in body and neshamah/soul.

The Israelites of old had a moment of truth. Am I ready to stand before G-d and commit myself to being Jewish? Not just for a day or a week or a yea but for generations. And they said yes.

That power of that moment still reverberates to this day. All Jews alive today are descended from a mother who converted to Judaism, who took that plunge, either at Mount Sinai or sometime since then.
Now you have your moment of truth. You can be culturally and ethnically Jewish, as you already are. Or you can stand at your own Sinai and say yes to G-d.

Put aside the frustration and take this decision seriously. If you don’t go ahead, you leave things hanging for your children and theirs. But if you do it, your commitment is forever, for all generations, once and for all.

Menachem Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Question asked of Rabbi Menachem Bluming this week:

Many times in the Torah it says that we should not say or do something that is forbidden since that will make G-d very angry. What am I supposed to make of that? How can I respect a G-d who is on the edge of blowing up if we don’t follow what He says?

Here’s a thought:

Imagine being married to a man who never gets angry. Ever. About anything. You insult him and he shrugs. You are rude to him and he is nice back to you. You give attention to others and he isn’t the least bit jealous.

Would that be a wonderful marriage?

Well, on one level, yes, it would be fantastic. No tension, no issues, no arguments or fights or silent treatment.

But in truth, it wouldn’t be good at all. It wouldn’t be a relationship. If he never gets upset at you, it means that you don’t really matter to him. If nothing you do moves him, it means he doesn’t care enough to be impacted by you.

Being in a relationship means affecting each other. For better or for worse, your heart is intertwined with someone else’s. If you aren’t getting a reaction, then you aren’t connecting. You may be married, but you are really alone.

G-d created the world so He could have a relationship with us. He made a huge gamble, creating humans with free choice to do whatever we want, and He invested Himself in us, allowing Himself to be impacted by our actions.

So when the Torah says that G-d will get angry if we do wrong, that is the most beautiful statement of love. G-d is saying, “You matter to me. Your actions touch me. I have invested myself in you. This relationship is real.”

We only get upset at people who matter to us. You matter to G-d too.

Menachem Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Is The Constitution Like The Torah?

The Constitution provides for its own amendment by a supermajority of the Legislature and States, whereas the Torah is eternal and immutable.

It seems to me that many Jews in the U.S. conflate these two documents. They have developed a ‘veneration’ of the transcendence of the humanly conceived Constitution and concomitantly advanced the idea that the Torah is adaptable, whereas the reverse is true. Irrespective of the debate about whether the Constitution is a ‘living document’ or to be understood from the perspective of ‘original intent’, the fact is that the Constitution is a utilitarian document which also itself legitimates change by amendment.

The Torah on the other hand was given to us by an omniscient G-d – as familiar with the future as we are of the past or present – who stipulated numerous times that the Torah is applicable for all future time.

Logic too supports this notion.

Governmental systems and structures must necessarily adapt to societal change. Values and morals however, are truths which transcend the vicissitudes of any particular age or milieu and must therefore not change.

Menachem Mendel Bluming, RSK and Chabad.org