Why are the names Dov and Ber frequently paired with the name Y'ssachar?

Is it because that was the Belzer Rebbe's name or was his name part of a larger phenomenon?


From Jewish Personal Names by Rabbi Shmuel Gorr z"l. Yissachar Ber - It is based on the Midrashic explanation of Genesis 49-14-16 where Yaakov's blessings to his sons are recorded. In the blessing and personality description of Yissachar, he is recorded as "having to "bear a load." It is from the root, "to bear" in German that this Ber in Yiddish derives. It has no connection (other than phonetic) with Dov meaning an animal) "

Those that are careful with the spelling of names spell Dov - Daled Bais - without the Vav

  • 2
    Do you have a source for the final comment on spelling? Aruch Hashulchan (where he discusses spelling of names in gitin IIRC) says that although the common noun has no vav, the name is to be spelled with one.
    – msh210
    Feb 23 '11 at 5:57
  • My Uncle who is a big Medakdek in spelling spells it without a Vav. I will find out his source and add it in. Feb 23 '11 at 13:29
  • For what it's worth (probably very little), I think the explanation that you have provided is completely bogus. You have a source, and that's good, and the OP likes your answer. But your source is obviously fanciful, and I'm somewhat astonished that so many have just accepted it. How on earth could the author (R' Gorr) possibly know that the first person to name his son Yissachar Ber did so because of this flimsy correlation - that the second word sounds similar (and not even that similar) to one of the verbs used in a non-existent translation of the Torah into German??
    – Shimon bM
    Jun 13 '13 at 4:12
  • And what's this phonetic correlation between "Ber" and "Dov"? Do you mean semantic?
    – Shimon bM
    Jun 13 '13 at 4:13

According to Alexander Beider's Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names, page 20 (emphasis mine):

[Ber] became considered as a kinnui for the biblical Issachar, one of Jacob's sons; however, in the Bible, Issachar is compared to a donkey (Genesis 49:14). In Europe this symbol was replaced with a bear because of the pejorative connotation of donkey to European Christians. It may be that this substitution was because the biblical comparison to donkey was made referring to the strength and the endurance of that animal, both qualities being applicable also to a bear. In any case, the relative chronology of Issachar... and Ber shows that the Issachar became common after Ber, that is, the growth of popularity of Ber(man) contributed to a similar phenomenon for Issachar.

So Ber became popular, and then it became a kinnui for Issachar which made Issachar popular. In Hebrew documents, Dov always replaced Ber since that was the translation. So all the Issachar Ber's became Issachar Dov's when written in Hebrew. Then, in the 20th century, with the rebirth of Hebrew, the name Dov became a real name, and we got a bunch of Issachar Dov's who were called such.


The Vilna Gaon also had a brother whose name was Yissachar Dov. So I guess even those that are not Chasiddim have this combination.

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