Mother Knows Best| March 23, 2021
Most of us are given our Jewish names at birth. But sometimes, we gain our name later in life. 3 accounts
When a shidduch is meant to happen, it happens.
The boy’s name had come up before — several times, in fact. The suggestion seemed to be spot-on; from the references, it sounded like he was everything I was looking for. The only snag was his mother’s name — Miriam — which was the same as mine.
When it first came up, our rav advised against pursuing the shidduch for this reason, so we didn’t move forward.
Then it was suggested again, and this time, the shadchan wouldn’t let up.
“What about changing your name?” she asked. “People have done it before.”
Changing my name? I was Miriam; I always had been. But maybe...
My parents asked our rav about the shidduch again, this time with the caveat that I’d change my name if necessary.
“In that case, go ahead,” was the answer.
It didn’t take long to see why so many people had come up with the same idea. One date, a few more, a l’chayim — and then, it was time to choose a name.
How do you choose a name for yourself?
I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t chosen the name Miriam; my parents did. And that’s when I realized that I wanted to give my mother the opportunity to name me — again.
For my mother, it wasn’t a difficult decision. It wasn’t even a question. It was a lightning bolt: one night she simply jumped out of bed and said, “Avigail!”
“It sounds so royal,” she told my father. She told a friend too — who reminded her that not only was Avigail one of the seven nevi’os, just like Miriam, but she was also a wife of Dovid Hamelech. There was my mother’s royal connection. And so, Avigial it was.
One day, I was Miriam; the next, I was Avigail. I told everyone I knew, and many friends told me how much the new name suited me.
“You’re such an Avigail,” I kept hearing. “It’s the perfect name for you.”
It took time to adjust to the name change in practical terms. For a few days, I didn’t always realize I was being addressed; to shed an identity and replace it took some getting used to. But all in all, the process of changing my name was incredibly smooth, and I strongly believe that it’s because I gave my mother the choice and went with her dream name.
I like Avigail too; but then again, I never considered anything else once she’d given me her opinion and explained the reasoning behind it.
I’ve been Avigail for a few years now. It’s my name; it’s what everyone calls me. Occasionally, when I get in touch with an acquaintance from years back, an old classmate or a teacher who’s moved away, I have to explain who I am: “I’m Avigail — I was Miriam So-and-So...” — but most of the time, it’s not something I even think about much.
I’ve learned that it’s not our names that define who we are. It’s our choices.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 736)
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