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The Gemara in Brachot 13a teaches us that we should only refer to Avraham as Avraham and not as Avram.

תני בר קפרא כל הקורא לאברהם אברם עובר בעשה שנאמר (בראשית יז) והיה שמך אברהם רבי אליעזר אומר עובר בלאו שנאמר (בראשית יז) ולא יקרא עוד [את] שמך אברם

Bar Kappara taught: Whoever calls Abraham Abram transgresses a positive precept, since it says, Thy name shall be Abraham. R. Eliezer says: He transgresses a negative command, since it says, Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram.

Does this also apply when the context in which we refer to Avraham is before Avraham was renamed?

For example would we say:

When Avram was born....

or

When Avraham was born....

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In Bereshis 17:5 is when Avraham's name is changed.

We see however that Rashi until then referred to Avraham as "Avram". For example Rashi in Bereshis 11:32 "...לאחר שיצא אברם"

This is certainly reasonable that when one is learning the pasukim in a time when Avraham was still called Avram that we would refer to him by the name that he has called at that point in the Torah.

However after Avraham's name was changed in the Torah we see Rashi changes the way he referrs to him even in a time when he was still called Avram. See Rashi in Bereshis 19:20, "...ומשם עד שנולד אברהם שבעים"

Since the Torah has already changed his name Rashi will refer to him in such a way even when mentioning a time when he was not called yet "Avraham".

Rashi on the Gemorah in Avodah Zara (Daf 19a d'h Avraham Avinu) also refers to Avraham by this name even referring to him in a time when he was still called Avram.

אברהם אבינו. בימי דור הפלגה היה בסוף ימי פלג נפלגה הארץ כדתניא בסדר עולם א"ר יוסי נביא גדול היה עבר שקרא לבנו פלג וא"ת בתחילת ימיו כו' ופלג ראה את אברהם כמה שנים דהא לקצ"א דפלג נולד אברהם וחיה פלג אחר כך כמה שנים

To answer the question I think we see from here that one must call "Avraham" by that name even when referring to him in a time when he was still called Avram (unless of course one is learning the pasukim when he was still called Avram.)

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See Brachos 13a (IIRC) that one is allowed to call him that (the Torah does).

מתיב רבי יוסי בר אבין ואיתימא רבי יוסי בר זבידא אתה הוא ה' האלהים אשר בחרת באברם אמר ליה התם נביא הוא דקא מסדר לשבחיה דרחמנא מאי דהוה מעיקרא:‏
R. Jose b. Abin (or, as some say, R. Jose b. Zebida) cited in objection the following: Thou art the Lord, the God who didst choose Abram! (Neh. IX, 7) — The answer was given: There the prophet12 is recounting the noble deeds of the All Merciful [and relates] that that was the case originally. (Translation from here)

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