Rachel's final action before leaving this world was to give her son the name Ben Oni (Bereishis 35:18)

וַיְהִי בְּצֵאת נַפְשָׁהּ כִּי מֵתָה וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בֶּן־אוֹנִי וְאָבִיו קָרָא־לוֹ בִנְיָמִין׃

But as she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

Why did Yaakov change his name to Binyamin after Rachel literally gave her life for Ben Oni? (If it wasn't a good name, then why would one of our imahos name him that?)

  • Thought we had this question already, but I can't find it.
    – msh210
    Nov 24, 2018 at 17:14
  • Firstly you need to understand that the name wasn't changed as such. ( A second was given) Secondly, look what the names mean.
    – user15253
    Nov 24, 2018 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


The Artscroll Chasam Sofer offers two answers which addresses the question:

1) Both names Ben-Oni and Binyamin are focused on the concept of strength. Rachel muses that if not for her moral strength (און) whereby she enabled Leah to marry Yaakov that fateful evening, she would not be dying now. Rachel would have been the one married first while Leah, the second of the two sisters married to Yaakov, would have violated the Biblical prohibition of not marrying two sisters. Now however, since Rachel married second she must die upon entering Eretz Yisrael (Chasam Sofer 185)

2) Rachel utilized the Aramaic version of בן אוני- בן צערי which has a double meaning - the son of my suffering, but also my youngest son (knowing she would have no more children). Yaakov, on the other hand, not knowing whether he would merit more children could not call the newborn explicitly בן צערי, my youngest son. He named him Binyamin, similar to בן ימים the son of my days, i.e. my old age. This explains why the Midrash concludes that Yaakov used Hebrew Lashon HaKodesh when naming his son, by contrast to Rachel who used the Aramaic form (Toras Moshe 28a).

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