Halacha for Wednesday 6 Kislev 5780 December 4 2019

Calling One’s Father or Mother by Name

Question: May one call one’s father by his first name? Also, may one call a friend with the same name as one’s father by his first name?

Answer: A child may not call his father or mother by their first name. For instance, if one’s father’s name is “Shmuel,” the son may not call him “Shmuel”; rather, he should call his father “Abba,” “Dad,” and the like. This law is quoted explicitly by the Gemara. The reason for this is because when one mentions the names of his father or mother, it should be done with reverence, similar to how one mentions Hashem’s name with reverence.

The Rambam adds that even to call a friend that has the same first name as one’s father by his first name is prohibited. For instance, if one’s friend has the same name as his father, “Shmuel,” one may not call his friend by his first name, Shmuel; rather, one should call one’s friend by a certain nickname, for instance, if the friend’s name is Shmuel and some people call him “Shmuli,” one may call him by this nickname, but one may not call him by his full first name, Shmuel. The Rambam’s position is rooted in the Talmud and is brought down as the Halacha. Nevertheless, the custom is seemingly not in accordance with the Rambam’s view, for people are customarily lenient to call friends with the same first name as their father by their first name and we find no one worrying about causing an affront to their father’s honor.

Indeed, from the words of the Rambam in a different place, we can infer that this Halacha does not apply to all names, for the Rambam writes in one of his responses that this law applies only to an uncommon name and only then will it be prohibited to call a friend bearing the same first name as one’s father by his first name.

For instance, if one’s father’s name is “Gamliel” or “Boaz,” which are both uncommon names, and the son has a friend with the same name, in this case it will be prohibited to call the friend by his first name, even if this is done while not in the presence of the father. However, regarding a name that is not uncommon, it will only be prohibited to call a friend bearing the same first name as one’s father by his first name in the presence of the father. For instance, if one’s father’s first name is “Shmuel” and the son has a friend with the same name, the son may indeed call his friend by his first name, “Shmuel,” unless this is done in the presence of the father in which case it will be prohibited, for it is not respectful to call one’s friend by his first name which is the same name as one’s father in the presence of the father.

The custom of many Sephardic, Middle Eastern, and North African Jews is to name one’s children after the child’s living grandparents and this custom is correct and appropriate without a shadow of a doubt, for this is the honor and wishes of one’s parents that their grandchildren bear their names and fulfilling one’s wishes is an honor to them.

Although the custom of the Jews of Iraq (Maran zt”l’s birthplace) was not to call grandchildren by their living grandparents’ names, nevertheless, the following incident once occurred: At the celebration marking the Berit Milah of Maran’s eldest son, Maran’s father, Rabbi Yaakov zt”l, came over to him and whispered, “What are you planning to name your son?” Maran replied, “I am planning to name him ‘Avraham’ after my father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Fattal, who is from the Syrian city of Aleppo whose custom it is to name a child after their living grandparent.” His father asked, “And what about me?” Maran zt”l replied, “We are of Iraqi heritage and Iraqi Jews customarily do not name their children after their living grandparents.” Rabbi Yaakov exclaimed, “I am not concerned about this issue at all!” And so it came to pass that Maran named his son “Yaakov” (he named his second son “Avraham”). The Mohel was one of the greatest Babylonian sages of the time, Hagaon Harav Tzadka Hussein zt”l, and he likewise did not point out anything about the issue of naming after the living. Furthermore, Maran zt”l named his daughter “Yaffa” after his living mother (whose name was “Gorgia” which means “beautiful” in Arabic and translates to “Yaffa” in Hebrew). When Maran once saw one of his sons-in-law calling his son a nickname so as not to call him “Ovadia” in the presence of Maran zt”l, Maran pointed out to him that this was an incorrect practice.

Summary: One may not call one’s father by his first name. If one has a friend bearing the same first name as one’s own father, one may not call the friend by his first name if this is being done in the presence of the father; however, if this is being done while not in the presence of the father, it is permissible to do so. If it is an uncommon name, it will be forbidden to do so even if this is being done while not in the presence of the father.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Proper Way to Immerse Vessels in a Mikveh

One must make certain that there is nothing separating between the vessel one is immersing and the waters of the Mikveh. Thus, when one is immersing a vessel, one must hold the vessel loosely, for if one holds it tight, one’s hand will be separating between the vessel and the waters of the Mik......

Read Halacha

Reading Scripture at Night

Question: May one read chapters of Tanach or Tehillim at night or is this forbidden according to Kabbalah? Is there room for leniency when this reading is being done for the sake of an ill individual or a woman in labor? Answer: Maran Ha’Chida in his Responsa Yosef Ometz (Chapter 54) quotes......

Read Halacha

Spiritual Blockage of the Heart

Question: Must one be careful regarding the Kashrut standards of the foods one’s children eat as well? Answer: Regarding any food which is prohibited for consumption by the Torah, such as milk and meat or an impure animal’s milk, it is certainly forbidden to give such foods to childre......

Read Halacha

Question: Is one obligated to wait six hours after eating meat foods before eating dairy foods?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (105a) states: “Mor Ukva said: When my father would eat meat, he would not eat cheese until the next day. Regarding myself, however, within the same meal I do not eat meat and then cheese, but I would eat cheese during the next meal.” The Rif writes......

Read Halacha


Drinking Beverages in a Café or in a Home Where the Vessels have not been Immersed in a Mikveh

Question: May one drink coffee in a friend’s home or in a Café (such as an espresso without milk served in Cafes) when they are not meticulous about immersing their vessels in a Mikveh? Answer: In the Halachot discussed before Tisha Be’av, we have explained that vessels produc......

Read Halacha

Question: Do disposable vessels and electric kettles require immersion in a Mikveh?

Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the general law that any new vessels purchased from a non-Jew must be immersed in a Mikveh before using them. We shall now discuss whether or not disposable vessels require immersion. We have already explained that according to Maran zt”l,......

Read Halacha

Eating Dairy Items after Eating Poultry

In the previous Halacha we have discussed in general the law that one must wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy foods either because the nature of meat is to get stuck between one’s teeth or because meat gives off a taste in one’s mouth for a prolonged amount of time. ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Fire on Yom Tov

In previous Halachot we have explained that Yom Tov and Shabbat are equal regarding all prohibitions besides for certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking, which are permitted on Yom Tov. Igniting a Flame One may not produce a new fire on Yom Tov, for instance by striking a......

Read Halacha