Can I change the religions and my name?

Schinui Schem

When converting to Judaism, women and men choose a new first name. For example, a Christiane becomes a Judith and a Felix becomes an Elijahu. Each choice is determined by specific circumstances. Exploring them is sometimes not uninteresting. By changing their name, converts (Hebrew: Gerim) document the completion of a metamorphosis they voluntarily chose. As social scientists have found, every name change indicates a new identity.

People who were born as Jews can also change their names (Hebrew: Schinui Schem). Thus we read in Maimonides, the Rambam (1135–1204): »One of the modes of repentance is that the penitent always prays before G ‐ d with tears and intimacy, does what he can to do good, and keeps himself completely away from the cause, through which he sinned and change his name to say, as it were, that he has become someone else and is no longer the person who committed that act ”(Hilchot Teshuwa 2,4).

Repentance Of course, every time a Jew repents from a sin, he will not change his name immediately. But sometimes such a drastic step can be very helpful and mark a new beginning.

In our time, name change is mainly practiced in the case of serious illness. It is customary to give the sick person a second first name in order to change their fate for the better.

Rabbi Mosche Isserles (1525–1572) mentions this custom in his glosses on Shulchan Aruch (Jore Dea 335, 10). For example, an Abraham becomes a Raphael Abraham and a Rachel becomes a Chaja Rachel. Rabbi Baruch Pinchas Goldberg (1911–1984) lists in his book Pne Baruch 35 psalms that are to be spoken at the name change ceremony. If the sick live with their new name for more than 30 days, this will remain and should later even be recorded on the tombstone.

Parents In the Kizzur Schulchan Aruch by Rabbi Schlomo Ganzfried (1804–1886) there is a strange rule: "Those who value it, take care not to take a wife whose name is the same as the name of their mother" (145.8). This provision is taken from the will of Rav Jehuda HaChassid from Regensburg (1150–1217). This medieval source says that a man should not marry a woman whose father is named just like him.

The question arises as to what inspired Rav Yehuda HaChassid to initiate the aforementioned prohibitions, neither of which are mentioned in the Talmud. One assumption that has been put forward in the literature relates to the rule that children should not call their parents by their first names out of awe (Moses Maimonides, Hilchot Mamrim 6,3). For this reason, it does not seem unproblematic if mother and wife have the same name. Because how should the man then call his wife? And how should the woman address her husband if his name is just like her father? In such cases, respect for the parents prohibits the use of the spouse's name.

What do people do who want to heed the instructions of the pious scholar from Regensburg (which, in the opinion of some Halachists, is not necessary)? If the bride has the same name as the groom's mother, she changes her name and the marriage can begin. And if the bride's father has the same name as the bridegroom, changing the bridegroom's name elegantly removes the obstacle to marriage. Rabbi Baruch Epstein (1860–1941) obviously does not like this solution to the problem (Torah Temima to Bereschit 32, note 4), but in practice it has prevailed in such cases.