QUESTION: A couple who could not find any naming document asked the rabbi to provide them with Hebrew names for the ketubah. A few years later the parents moved and they discovered documents which provided the Hebrew names used during Religious School, Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation. Which Hebrew names remain valid? (Donald Pearlstein, Providence RI)
ANSWER: A good deal has been written on the choice of names. Among Ashkenazim, it is the general practice to name children after a deceased ancestor, while among the Sephardim both deceased and living forbears' names are used. The history of the development of naming in Jewish tradition is long and complex (Jacob Z. Lauterbach CCAR Annual 1932 Vol 42 pp 316 ff and W. Jacob (ed) American Reform Responsa #59).
When the above mentioned tradition was not followed, then names were chosen in a number of different ways. Some selected them at random; others through opening a Torah scroll and utilizing the name of the first Biblical figure which appeared, excluding names prior to Abraham (Joseph Trani Responsa I #189).
In this instance we have a plethora of names. As we sort them out, we shall see that the names provided in the childhood documents have appeared on nothing with any legal implications. The names used on the wedding certificate possess legal standing and should be used in the future. Nothing would keep the couple from incorporating the earlier names and simply adding them through a phrase like hamekhuneh (known as) which would indicate that the other names have also been used to designate these individuals. In this fashion the persons honored through the original names will not be forgotten and the potential problems of the use of incorrect names will be avoided.
There is no problem with multiple names. Many individuals possess more than one name and such couplings with Zeev or Aryeh, etc. are very frequent.