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In Bereshit 2:19 Adam gets the honorable task to name the animals. The Midrash Genesis/Bereshit Raba 17:4 tells us that the first man, Adam, looked into the essence and nature of every creature and named it accordingly; meaning He analysed the essence and nature of each one and thereby deduce its name. In Hebrew a name of anything is an expression its essence and nature. The donkey, for example, is characterized by carrying heavy, physical burdens. So in Hebrew, the donkey is named chamor – from the same root as chomer, which means materialism (from the Aish website).

Now I was taught that in Hebrew, a noun is called a shem etzem (“name of essence”), while an adjective is called a shem toar (“name of description”). What I would like to know is what a human name, a proper noun, describes, what does a name do: does a name desribe our essence, does a name give a description of who we are, or could a name be given in the hope a child develops itself into the essence of his name?

In summary: Does a name (in Jewish teachings) add anything to our development into who we are/become?

  • tells us that the first man, Adam, looked into the essence and nature of every creature and named it accordingly; meaning He analysed the essence and nature of each one and thereby deduce its name. While that's not wildly inaccurate, it is a bit of a dramatisation. What is actually stated: אמרו לו אדם זה מה טיבו, אמר להן חכמתו מרובה משלכם, הביא לפניהם את הבהמה, ואת החיה, ואת העוף, אמר להם זה מה שמו ולא היו יודעין, העבירן לפני אדם, אמר לו זה מה שמו, אמר זה שור, זה חמור, זה סוס, וזה גמל – mevaqesh Feb 17 '17 at 13:37
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    in Hebrew, a noun is called a shem etzem (“name of essence”) I wouldn't read to much into this; the term was coined by grammarians; not mystics. – mevaqesh Feb 17 '17 at 13:41
  • Possible dupe of: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/80039/8775, however this question seems broader. – mevaqesh Feb 17 '17 at 13:42
  • please feel free to add to improve the question – M.R.Cohen Feb 17 '17 at 14:50
  • I was informed of your comment since I was the only other one who commented here, but normally for others to be informed of your comments, you should include their usernames in the comment prefaced with a @, like @mevaqesh. – mevaqesh Feb 17 '17 at 15:00

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