In Judaism, words are powerful; names are perhaps even more powerful. In the Torah, naming is an important theme related to identity and essence. In Hebrew, the word for "soul," neshama, contains the letters shin and mem - shem - name. When you name a child, according to Kabbalah and the Talmud ( Brachot 7b) you're describing their soul's essence. It has been said by Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (a.k.a. HaAri) and is written in the Talmud that when we name another person, we tap into Ruach HaKodesh, a spark of Divine wisdom (Yuma 83b).
If you find yourself looking for a name this Hanukkah, we hope this list inspired by the themes of the season will help.
Names of Heroes of the Hanukkah Story
The word "Hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word for dedication and refers to the rededication of the Second Temple after Yehuda (Judah) Maccabee led a campaign against the Greco-Syrian Seleucid Empire from in the second century BCE. The ruler Antiochus IV outlawed the Jewish religion, erected an altar to Zeus inside the Temple, and ordered Jews to worship the Greek gods. In response, the Jews revolted, regained control of the Temple, and rededicated it by lighting a menorah.
Another key figure in the Hanukkah story is Yehudit (Judith), who precipitated the Assyrian-Greeks' downfall by killing a cruel Syrian-Greek general. Some Jews eat dairy on Hanukkah to commemorate the salty cheese she gave to the general before cleverly killing him, which led the Greek forces to retreat from Jerusalem.
Names of Light
Hanukkah is known as the "festival of lights" (chag HaUrim). We light the reciting special blessings. On Hanukkah we focus on bringing light into the world.every night while
- Eliora - God is my light
- Leora (Liora) - my light
- Lior - my light
- Maor - light/luminary
- Neriya - candle/light of God
- Or - light
- Ori - my light
- Uri - my light
- Uriel - God is my light
- Uriyah - God is my light
- Ziva - radiance/light of God
- Zohara - light/splendor
Names of Giving and Freedom
It has become a cultural tradition to give each other small gifts at Hanukkah. The most traditional gift, originating in Europe and the Middle East, is chocolate coins known as gelt, the Yiddish word for money. In ancient times, each new ruler would mint new coins to indicate their sovereignty. Following this norm, the Maccabees minted coins as an act of independence. Thus, gelt has become a symbol of Jewish sovereignty and freedom despite many tragic wars that placed Jewish autonomy at risk. Consider one of these names if the themes of independence and freedom speak to you.
Giving a child a Hebrew name can connect them to their heritage and Jewish identity. While these names are perfect for the holiday season, they are also meaningful for a baby born at any point in the year. If you would like to read more about the rituals associated with welcoming a baby and giving a child a Hebrew name, follow the links below. Happy Hanukkah!
- What to Expect at a Baby Naming | Reform Judaism
- B'rit Milah: The Circumcision Ritual | Reform Judaism
- B'rit Bat: Ceremony for Welcoming a Baby Girl | Reform Judaism
Download a printable family blessing to hang in your home.