What’s in a (Hebrew) Name?

Even before I started the official conversion process, I began to look through various websites thinking through what my Hebrew name would be one day. About three years ago, I found out that my name Elizabeth is derived from the Hebrew Elisheva. Right away I knew that I would use Elisheva as my name one day.

My English name is very important to me because my parents named me Elizabeth because of its Hebrew meaning “my God of promise.”  Also, the gift of life is a huge promise, but even larger are the promises that God made in a covenant to the very people I want to be part of. God’s promise for me can be seen as both my life, God’s covenant, and so much more. I feel that God not only made a promise to all of Israel, but destined me to be part of the promise. And also, remembering that my life, like all life, is a gift from God continually reminds me that my half of the promise is to live/give my life to God- not necessarily in a majestic way, but in the little things. Also, Elisheva the wife of Aaron (the first high priest) in the Torah.

I still love the name Elisheva, but as I come closer to converting I also realize that I want a middle name also. I want to add something because I feel Elisheva isn’t enough of a name change. When I convert, my Jewish soul will finally be actualized and I want to have a beautiful name change along with the process.  Names are important, so I need a good one.

A friend shared this section from Rambam’s Mishneh Torah on name changes:

“From the ways of teshuva [it is appropriate] for the repenter to be calling out always before Hashem with cries and supplications and to do tzedaka according to what he can afford and to distance himself alot from the matter in which he sinned, and to change his name, implying, “I am different, and I am not the person who did those deeds”, and to change all of his deeds to the good and to the straight way and to exile himself from his place. For exile atones for sins because it causes him to be submissive and to be humble and of a fallen spirit.”

He also added these words of wisdom: “Teshuva isn’t the same as a giur (convert), but I do think there are similar elements in it: name-change, moving into a new community, etc. Also I think because as gerim you want to be accepted by the rabbanim and the community you are generally submissive and humble.”

I know that the name change is very important to me, so I am still looking for the perfect middle name. The rummaging through baby naming websites continues.

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