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If I want to be a Jew, can I ask the rabbi to give me any name of my choice from the Tanakh?

  • To my mind the range of names available extends outside those mentioned in the Tana"ch, and excludes some names in the Tana"ch, like Haman or Amalek – Epicentre Jan 21 '18 at 5:23
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There is no law (halacha) requiring a convert to choose a certain name. So it would appear as well from a responsum of one of our great authorities, R. Asher b. Jehiel (§15:4).

Examples of converts having different names, are plentiful. In the old rabbinic literature we find converts bearing names such as Onkelos (BT Meg. 3a), Judah (Mishnah Yadaim 4:4 and BT MK 9a) Samuel (BT Yeb. 101b) Yochanan (Midrash PR 14) among other, both Hebrew and Greek names. Examples post Talmud are found as well; one notable one was a contemporary of Maimonides, Ovadiah.

However, there is a in old custom that a convert assumes the name Abraham (and more precisely 'son of Abraham' - but this is beyond the question, cf. Kelalei Ha'milah p. 136 by R. Gershon Ha-Gozer).

In conclusion, a convert could either keep his current name OR choose whatever Jewish name he likes from the Tanach or elsewhere.

  • Onkelos is thought to be the Aramaic variant of Aquila. – ezra Jan 18 '18 at 17:30
  • @ezra True, some think so, but didn't want to go there. – Oliver Jan 18 '18 at 17:40
  • I can't read your source inside (my failing, not yours); does it really say there's a custom to take the name, as opposed to the patronym, of Avraham? All converts I know are ben Avraham, but they're not generally Avraham ben Avraham. But I don't claim to have a large or representative sample; that's just what I've seen. Can you clarify for me? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jan 19 '18 at 16:20
  • @MonicaCellio In R. Gershon's context it is indeed speaking of 'son of Abraham' as a patronym; X son of Abraham [avinu]. I sought to indicate the twofold custom: the convert assuming Abraham as his personal name, and the older custom where emphasis is made for the convert to assume the patronymic 'son of...'. – Oliver Jan 19 '18 at 17:37
  • @MonicaCellio I've heard of quite a few Abrahams b. Abraham and I've encountered more over time in rabbinic (and historic) lit. More so, the noted bibliographer, Abraham Yaari (Mechkarei Sefer p. 246), observed that in medieval times converts were "generally called Abraham b. Abraham or Isaac b. Abraham". – Oliver Jan 19 '18 at 20:31

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