For some reason, I have it ingrained in me that a baby boy's name before the bris is a secret and should not be shared. Are there any sources for this, or is it something made up?

  • The time between birth and bris is considered a 'dangerous time' for the baby. A sick person can change their name to fool the Malach HaMavet, so perhaps not having a name at all could be considered a similar protection for the child. (no source) – zaq Sep 14 '11 at 19:38
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    It makes the brit mila a lot more exciting (no source) – Baal Shemot Tovot Mar 29 '12 at 21:38
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    @yoel Were you told to do that only after you and your spouse decided on a name, or did even the planning/suggestion stages have to happen on paper? – Double AA Feb 26 '13 at 21:31
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    Probably is a spooky ayin hara thing – Yehoshua Apr 4 '14 at 10:11
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    @Ze'evFelsen Can you source that? – Double AA May 12 '14 at 20:15

I don't know of a halachic reason, but I can think of some good practical reasons. With naming after people being a way to memorialize family members who have passed on, different family members may have different ideas about which family member is most important to remember. You really don't want to go into a Simchah with In-laws fighting with each other and with you over which deceased relative was more worthy of being remembered. The custom that parents must decide the name, combined with the practice of not announcing the name in advance minimizes (although doesn't eliminate) lobbying and arguing and hence bad feelings.

Not announcing the name in advance also leaves the parents' options open to change their mind up to the time of the Bris. I've known parents who went back and forth over which name to choose right up to the time of the Bris. If you announce the name in advance it makes it much harder to change your mind.

  • Reminds me of the Chelm story of parents fighting ove which side to name the baby after. She wanted after her father (Moshe the horse thief) and he wanted after his father (Moshe the embezzler). The rabbi said, name him Moshe and we will see which side he takes after. I have heard of cases in which both sides pointed to a relative on its side that the baby was "obviously" named for. In actuality, the baby was named for a famous tzaddik (no relation). – sabbahillel Jun 10 '14 at 13:13

This is a good question which wasn't really answered in the last seven years. I found a number of sources

  • R Moshe Taub (here, part 1) quotes Rav Gedalia Shor, that we wait until a boy’s bris to give him his name, as opposed to a girl who typically receives her name before she is eight days old. Since until the bris the boy is somewhat incomplete, his purpose is also unclear. Once the bris is performed he is then ready for his name

  • Halachablog writes that the reason is that only after the removal of the orlah (foreskin) is the baby in his perfected state and prepared to receive his Jewish name (Chesed l’Avraham 2:52 from the kabbalistic master R Avraham Azulai)

  • R Eli Mansour writes the Sephardi custom is to follow the Sod, the opinion of Kabalistic teachings, and refrain from naming the baby until the time of the milah, even in cases the milah is delayed.

  • Tzitz Eliezer 18:54 brings these and other opinions, tracing what he calls "this holy minhag in Israel" to the times of the Second Temple

See here for more on the special case of a sick baby whose brit mila is delayed - where poskim are split whether to give the name before the brit mila or wait.

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    "to the times of the Second Temple" That's a cute way of referring to the New Testament (Luke 2:21) – Double AA May 15 '18 at 14:35
  • I can't tell if all of these sources are only talking about the epochal conferral of a name on the child, or including casual addressing or referring to the child by a given name. The question seems to be more about publicity of the name than either of these. Do any of them address casual (public) references explicitly? – WAF May 16 '18 at 20:39
  • @WAF I remember I read somewhere not to refer to the name even between father and mother but I don't think it appears in the sources above. I had seen others which I don't list. – mbloch May 16 '18 at 20:47
  • 2nd bullet point: No such thing about disclosing the name is mentioned in R”I ben Yakar’s commentary to siddur; the line at the linked-to site “sources in the Rishonim” is misleading. 3rd bullet point: No such book ‘Hishmat Abraham’; I think it should read ‘Hesed LeAvraham’ by R. Azulai (‘Nishmat Abraham’, by Dr. Abraham, is closer to Mansour’s spelling but the quote isn’t there). – Oliver Nov 14 '19 at 18:19
  • @Oliver I hear you - indeed when I re-read this answer this morning I was surprised to see this Hishmat Avraham. When I checked today I didn't find a reference either in Nishmat Avraham. See if the edits match your understanding please – mbloch Nov 14 '19 at 19:55

Rav Pesach Feinhandler in his Avnei Yashfei 1:196:6 is puzzled by this custom of people not revealing the name of the baby before the bris. He doesn't understand the insistence on not doing so. He explains that if one knows that the bris won’t be done in the correct time then the name should be given before the bris (some say better after the eighth day). He ends off saying: "nevertheless I could not find a reason to be makpid on this like the minhag of the people".

In the sefer Rav Feinhandler printed a letter from Rav Seraiah Deblitzki who wrote to him saying that he thinks the issue of revealing the name before the bris is Ayin harah.


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