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    In the beginning of
    parshas Shemos,
    the posuk says,
    “… Shemos Bnei
    Yisroel habonim
    – The names of
    the Jewish People
    who came.” The
    Baal Haturim revealed that the first
    letter of these four words spells
    shevi’ah, which means captivity.
    And it conveys the lesson that
    the Jews kept their Jewish names
    throughout their captivity, one of
    the three merits which allowed us
    to be redeemed from Egypt.
    The Maharam Schick, zt”l, zy”a,
    states in strong terms that it is of
    Biblical importance to maintain
    Jewish names. He says it is the
    fulfillment of the Torah directive,
    “Vavdil es’chem min ha’amim
    l’hiyos Li – I will separate you from
    the nations to be Mine.” The great
    Maharsham, zt”l, zy”a, was asked
    about a beautiful embroidered
    cover for the shul amud dedicated
    by a certain woman. At the
    bottom, she embroidered her name
    in Hungarian. The Maharsham
    poskened that if it was a Jewish
    name just written in Hungarian,
    that’s fine. But if it was a gentile
    name, he wrote that it shouldn’t be
    displayed for it can be a stumbling
    block to impede the redemption
    since in Egypt we were redeemed
    because we didn’t change our
    Jewish names.
    The Otzar Hapla’os wonders if
    so, why were there so many sages
    in the Talmud who bore secular
    names. He proposes that it was
    because we were persecuted by
    the goyim and many times it
    was necessary that we shouldn’t
    have Jewish names that were
    recognizable as such. My name
    on my own birth certificate is a
    proof to this idea. My father, Reb
    Aharon Tzvi ben Meir Weiss zt”l,
    zy”a, was a survivor of Auschwitz
    who also lived through the terrors
    of the death march after Auschwitz
    was disbanded. When he arrived
    in America in the early 50s, the fear
    of the gestapo was still very real.
    So much so that when I was born,
    he put on the birth certificate the
    name Mark M. instead of Moshe
    Meir. Similarly, three years later
    my brother got the name Arthur
    J. instead of Yosef Asher. It was
    only eleven years later that he felt
    sufficiently safe to give
    my next brother the
    name Yisroel Dov.
    But if all things are
    equal, we should
    certainly pick for our
    children purely Jewish
    names. Even the
    surnames should be
    distinctly Jewish. When
    in Austria they insisted
    on people having last
    names, the Maharam
    Schick adopted the name
    ‘schick’ for it is an abbreviation of
    sheim Yisroel kodesh, the name of
    a Jew is holy. So too, for example,
    names like Goodfriend points to
    the importance of being a chaver
    tov, Weiss means white – a stamp
    of purity, and Klein, meaning,
    small hints to the shining virtue of
    Names in the Jewish belief are
    not simply a label to differentiate
    people. The gematria of sheim is
    tzinor, a pipeline, for one’s name
    is a conduit to bring down good
    or bad, depending on a person’s
    behavior from heaven.
    The Gemora teaches us Shma
    Gorim, a name foretells a person’s
    destiny. So Noach was an ish
    naicha, a gentle person and the
    letters of Noach, nun ches, spell
    chein, charm for Noach found
    favor in the Eyes of Hashem.
    Hevel means vanity for he died
    in vain, killed cold-bloodedly
    by his brother Kayin. Hagar
    is the same letters as hageir,
    the ultimate convert, for she
    was a royal princess who
    gave up everything to become
    Sarah’s handmaid. Moshe is
    the same letters as Hashem
    for no one saw Hashem face
    to face as did Moshe. Basya,
    or more precisely Bisya, is the
    same letters as teiva, for she
    retrieved the ark that contained
    Moshe Rabbeinu from the
    water. Basya is also the same
    letters as bas Kah, the daughter
    of G-d, for Hashem said to her,
    ‘You treated Moshe like your
    own child even though he
    wasn’t your own; I will treat
    you like my daughter.’ She
    would never die and entered
    alive into Gan Eden.
    I mentioned that a name has
    an option to be both positive
    and negative in the true spirit
    of bechira. Thus, Tziporah,
    the very great wife of Moshe
    Rabbeinu can be anagrammed
    to read prutzah, an immodest and
    abrasive women. In truth, the
    Midrash says, she was wholly pure
    like the pure bird variety known
    as tziporah. The Rabbeinu Efraim
    says that the gematria of Tziporah
    equals the gematria of l’Moshe,
    showing that even though she was
    in far out Midian, she was Moshe’s
    basherta. Tziporah is also the
    numerical values of tzor milah, for
    Tziporah would take a flint stone
    and circumcise her son, saving
    Moshe’s life. Tziporah is also the
    gematria of ratz milah because she
    ran to do the circumcision. It was
    only her alacrity that saved Moshe
    Rabbeinu from being swallowed
    by the snake.
    All Jewish names carry these
    harbingers and messages and I
    just wanted to give you a little
    taste to impress upon you the
    importance of always picking
    and using our wonderful Jewish
    names. May we merit to mine the
    beautiful forecasting encoded in
    our names and may Hashem bless
    us with long life, good health, and
    everything wonderful.