Repairing the World in a different real kind of way

Why did the repair man check on his repairs?

That’s pretty unusual, in my experience. He came back to see if everything was in working order, which, thank G-d, it was. But then he asked:

“Can I ask you a question, or should I ask the rabbi?”

Okay, shoot.

“Of course. If I don’t know, I’ll be very happy to tell you that.” I’d be happy to tell him that the rabbi might not know, either, but I didn’t.

“You see, my sister just had a baby, and they had the bris (circumcision) just last week. They named him [I really didn’t hear him correctly, but let’s say] Pete after our mother.”

Last week, when he was fixing the fridge, he told me how his parents were married in our shul when it was a brand-new reform temple. And also how his mother died last year and it’s been a hard year.

“The problem is that it wasn’t the exact name. She gave a beautiful explanation how the name is to remember our mother, but…”

“Let me guess–your father isn’t happy that you didn’t use the exact name.”

Except I’m thinking it’s a boy, so really, was he thinking they would?

“Exactly. And my sister wanted to know where exactly in Scriptures does it say that you have to name someone after someone else?”

“Oh, it doesn’t say it anywhere. I don’t know how late of a custom it is. And you know, the Sephardic Jews name after their living relatives, with a pretty specific order.”

Blank face.

“It’s a good question, how late of a custom is it. But it’s a very nice custom, to remember the departed.”

(Well, that was easy enough to look at:

Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe had a strong tradition that mandated that a baby be named after a deceased relative. It is important to understand that this is a tradition, and is not codified in Jewish law.

No evidence of such a tradition appears in the Bible, in which most names are unique. The custom seems to have started in the first and second century CE, and to have become entrenched by the 12th century. By the 12th century in Europe, we find given names repeating every other generation within families, as a baby was typically named for a grandfather or grandmother. Generally, the child was named for the closest deceased relative for whom no one else in that immediate family was already named. Highest priority goes to the child’s mother, if she had died in childbirth, or the father, if he had died before the baby was born.

If any of the four grandparents were deceased, a baby would be named after one of them; otherwise the great-grandparents or, perhaps, a sibling of one of the parents. During the 19th century in Eastern Europe, a girl was typically named after a female relative, a boy after a male relative. Usually, a baby was not given the same name as a sibling who had previously died, although some cases of this have been seen.

Ashkenazim (Jews from Eastern Europe) do not name babies after living relatives. Sephardim (Jews from Iberia and the Middle East), on the other hand, name their children in honor of living grandparents, usually in a fixed order. The first son is named for the father’s father, the first daughter for the father’s mother. The next son is named in honor of his mother’s father and the second girl for her maternal grandmother.)

“And my mother, G-d rest her soul (I don’t remember if he said that, but it feels that that would have been an appropriate place for someone to say such a thing.), had been sick with cancer for over 20 years. She always said that all she wanted was to see her baby grow up and graduate from college. But she even got to see her get married, so that was more than we could ever expect.”

No, we can always expect more. We just have to realize that we aren’t going to get it most of the time.

“So what was the name again?”

“Zachary. Because our mother was so kind and considerate and so full of love.”

“Actually, Zachary comes from the root “remember”, so it’s a wonderful name to remember your mother with.”

Whatever her name really was; whatever they actually are calling the baby.

“Tell your sister to print up what she said at the bris and give it to your father. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled and come to love the name.”

“I think I will.”

“So can you fix the oven doors now?”

“Oh, no, I’m too busy fixing air conditioners. What a crazy season it’s been.”

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