Sometimes a sick person changes his Hebrew name or adds to it.

Is there a problem (halachically or otherwise) with changing one's Hebrew name, for someone who is not sick? For example, he prefers a different name for whatever reason.

I am especially interested in halachic problems with this.


According to the Halacha a person has the right to change his name to whatever he or she likes.

But the Minhag is not to do so without a valid reason, and only after consulting a prominent Rabbi, due to many complications that could arise in result of that, and for other reasons as well.

source: Kobetz Ginas Verdimenter image description here

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One of the senior Rabbis in Israel - Rav Chaim Kanievsky (son of the famous Steipler Gaon) - occasionally changes people's names.

This is often done when their Biblical names come from wicked people - like Nimrod.

A friend of mine - a scion of a Rabbinic family - was told to change his name from Amir to Meir. (The reason given by Rav Chaim was that Amir was animal food; though we have not been able to find a source for this.)

We see in the Chumash that Hashem renamed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sara and Yaakov to Yisrael - even though they were not ill.

Other biblical figures also had multiple names. For example Moses - as mention on Wikipedia:

Moses' other names were: Jekuthiel (by his mother), Heber (by his father), Jered (by Miriam), Avi Zanoah (by Aaron), Avi Gedor (by Kohath), Avi Soco (by his wet-nurse), Shemaiah ben Nethanel (by people of Israel). Moses is also attributed the names Toviah (as a first name), and Levi (as a family name) (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3), Heman, Mechoqeiq (lawgiver) and Ehl Gav Ish (Numbers 12:3).

Conclusion: There does not seem to be a Halachic issue with changing one's name, but I have not found any primary sources for this assertion.

That said, I assume there are Halachic implications when changing one's name - like when writing Gittin - a Get has to have the accurate name(s) of both spouses to be valid.

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  • Re "Halachic implications" see e.g. judaism.stackexchange.com/q/35342. – msh210 Mar 6 '14 at 15:44
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    Re the animal food: Likely R. Chaim was referencing the mishna on Shabbos 76a: "עמיר כמלא פי טלה". – jake Mar 6 '14 at 17:16
  • there is a gemora on yoma where the amoraim deduce that certain people are wicked due to their name having a wicked connotation. perhaps Rabbi Chaim is basing himself on that. my question is what about if someone simply prefers a different name. can he change it to whatever he wants. – ray Mar 6 '14 at 18:37
  • and by himself. – ray Mar 6 '14 at 21:19

The Mishna in Gittin 4:2 indicates that it was common practice for people to change their names to nullify a bill of divorce.

בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה הָיָה מְשַׁנֶּה שְׁמוֹ וּשְׁמָהּ, שֵׁם עִירוֹ וְשֵׁם עִירָהּ. וְהִתְקִין רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הַזָּקֵן שֶׁיְּהֵא כוֹתֵב, אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי וְכָל שֵׁם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ, אִשָּׁה פְלוֹנִית וְכָל שׁוּם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָהּ, מִפְּנֵי תִקּוּן הָעוֹלָם

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  • I'm not convinced that's a proof. See the bartenura there that says: בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה הָיָה מְשַׁנֶּה שְׁמוֹ וּשְׁמָהּ. כְּשֶׁהָיוּ לוֹ שְׁנֵי שֵׁמוֹת, אֶחָד כָּאן וְאֶחָד בִּמְדִינַת הַיָּם, הָיָה מְגָרְשָׁהּ בַּשֵּׁם הַנּוֹהֵג בִּמְקוֹם כְּתִיבַת הַגֵּט, וְלֹא הָיָה מַקְפִּיד לִכְתֹּב אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם: (ר"ע מברטנורה). - and the rest at toratemetfreeware.com/online/f_01128.html#HtmpReportNum0022_L2 – Danny Schoemann Jan 14 '15 at 11:54
  • or see Rashi on the gemara - toratemetfreeware.com/online/f_00939.html#HtmpReportNum0065_L2 - מתני' בראשונה היה משנה שמו ושמה. כשהיו לו שני שמות אחד כאן ואחד במדינת הים היה מגרשה בשם הנוהג במקום כתיבת הגט ולא היה מקפיד לכתוב שניהם: – Danny Schoemann Jan 14 '15 at 11:57
  • @DannySchoemann that is an ukimta in the gemarah based on one opinion – rikitikitembo Jan 15 '15 at 0:56
  • and where is another opinion, and what does it say? (There are only 2 opinions on this Gemoro, neither of them seem to match your interpretation.) – Danny Schoemann Jan 15 '15 at 7:41
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    @rikitikitembo BOMBSHELL! – SAH Jan 2 '18 at 22:39

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