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3 Responses

  1. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    I don’t understand how you can just dismiss the Tanna R’ Yishmael without knowing what the story behind his name was (or if there even was one). If you know for a fact that there was some story behind it and that it renders the precedent irrelevant, then you are surely justified in raising the point. But if not I don’t see how you can just make such a definitive statement.

    I also don’t think your statement that “Yishmael is a traditional enemy of the Jewish people” is correct. The nation of Yishmaelim, yes. But the person of Yishmael? No. (OK, he gave Yitzchok a bit of a hard time, but to call him the traditional enemy seems to be a stretch.)

  2. Fotheringay-phipps says:

    Also, FWIW, I see that the Bais Shmuel, in his discussion of proper ways to write names in gittin (EH after siman 129) discusses the name Yishmael, which indicates that it was used by Jews.

  3. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    So lat night I went and took a look at the Shem Hagedolim (from the Chida) and I see that he has three different rabbis named Yishmael listed. And he does not remark about the name.

    In sum, the tanna R’ Yishmael was not an exception at all, and there is likely no story at all behind his name. The name Yishmael is a respectable Jewish name.

    Whether it is a good idea to give such a name these days is another story. Possibly some people might associate the name with Arabs. And more significantly, it is not a good idea to take (or give) an uncommon name. Particularly for a convert, it’s a good idea to try to “fit in” to the extent possible, and taking a “weird” name is not going to be helpful. Of course, with regards to this consideration the name Elishama is an even worse choice.

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