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Giyoret Bat Rivkah instead of Bat Sarah

Rabbanit Surale Rosen

Adar 5579 | March 2019
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She'ela

Can a Giyoret be called Bat Rivkah instead of the traditional Bat Sarah?

Teshuva

First and foremost, I want to wish you a hearty, warm, mazal tov on joining our people! This must have been a huge step for you, together with the long journey of preparation, studying Torah and learning how to keep mitzvot. May you always feel that mitzvot are both new and familiar simultaneously “והיו בעיניך כחדשים”.

Avraham and Sarah are the first to lay the foundations of the Jewish people. Their approach was one of reaching out to people, bringing them under the wings of Providence לחסות תחת כנפי השכינה. They were unique in their manner of spreading the name of Hashem, the following Avot and Imahot developing other aspects characteristic of our people. Avraham and Sarah’s endeavors were acknowledged by the Almighty as bearing future fruits, in all generations to come. The Rambam emphasizes this idea in his letter to Rabbi Ovadiya the Convert, answering his concern re reciting the words in the blessings and prayers ‘The G-d of Our fathers’, ‘The One who performed miracles to Our Fathers’. How can he, a convert, not a descendant of the Avot, say that?

The Rambam quotes the pasuk from Genesis:” ‘For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Hashem…’(18:19) therefore all future converts in all generations to come…are disciples of Avraham Avinu and members of his household. For just like he brought people of his own generation (to their Father in heaven) through his words and teachings, so too he brings people in all future generations through the legacy he had left to his descendants”.

The Rambam brings the Mishnah In Bikkurim (1:4) where Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi rules that a convert brings the first fruits to the Temple and recites ‘that I have come to the land which the Lord swore to our forefathers to give us’ (Devarim 26:3) since Hashem made Avraham the forefather of all nations (Beresheet 17:5).

We clearly see that the Rambam, following the Mishnah, brings home the centrality of Avraham and Sarah’s reaching out as the basis for our people. I therefore see no reason to adopt a different name other than Bat Sarah since Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov, Rachel and Leah have merited strengthening other values of our people.

The Poskim dealt with a situation where one is embarrassed to reveal his true lineage:

The Trumat Hadeshen 21 rules that the son of a convert to Christianity should be called up to the Torah using his grandfather’s name (the convert’s father) so as not to shame him publicly.

The Maharam Padua 87 clarifies that the Trumat Hadeshen’s intention was only meant for a father of a young child who converted before the child was old enough to be called to the Torah using the father’s name. Therefore it is not yet known publicly who that child (now grown) is descended from. Therefore the respectful thing to do is to give him an Aliya using his grandfather’s name so that people don’t associate the young man with his converted father.

However, in the case of a man who is used to be called to the Torah with his father’s name and the father suddenly converts, it would shame him were we to stop using the father’s name all of a sudden. The result would be hurtful publicity of the fact that the father left Yiddishkeit. In this case Maharam Padua reaches the opposite conclusion  – that we should continue to call up the son using his father’s name.

What we can clearly see from the Maharam is that avoiding shaming somebody in public is his chief concern.

However, in a case of conversion to Judaism the important point is that there is no shame involved! On the contrary! Both the Trumat Hadeshen and Maharam Padua discuss the case where one has abandoned Judaism. We show our deeply felt appreciation to those who made the long and sometimes arduous journey of joining Am Israel and you should feel secure and confident in your new community. If a Ger or a Giyoret feels any hint of embarrassment or even shame then it is the community’s responsibility to think about its approach to converts rather than find ways of hiding the conversion.

One other point of difference to the ruling of Maharam Padua is that in the case of a woman, bringing up one’s genealogy is not as common as it is for a man. Furthermore, in the case of calling up a man to the Torah using the grandfather’s name, a direct reference to the family line is kept since the grandson is a direct descendant and we know which family he originated from. However, if you are to use Rivkah instead of Sarah it would be a way of hiding your conversion and your origins. In the situation of Gerut, Rivkah was not the Halakhic genealogy Chazal attributed to a female convert since only Avraham Avinu is called אב המון גוים – The father of a multitude of nations, inclusive also of Sarah who was converting the women.

One last significant consideration is that of the strict Halakhic requirement of writing exact names on various legal deeds and documentations. If the wrong name is written in a Get, for example, it will invalidate the Get. We are therefore careful with keeping records of all names and genealogy so as not to negate Gittin and other Halakhic documents (First Taz on the Rama Orach Chayim 139:3).

Similarly, since it is forbidden for a Kohen to marry a Giyoret, it is important we make sure no unfortunate circumstances arise out of misleading information regarding a Giyoret’s  lineage (Rabeinu Tam in the Tur Even Ha’ezer 2, Bayit Chadash Even Haezer 2:4)

Rabbanit Surale Rosen

a graduate of Matan’s 5 year Halakha program, is a certified To'enet Rabbanit and a graduate of Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute. For the past 5 years she has headed Metivta – Matan’s Advanced Gemarah Program. She has taught Midrash, Talmud and Halakha and Daf Yomi in a wide array of shuls and communities, besides the Matan Beit Midrash, and written responses to halakhic questions through the Meshivat Nefesh online forum. Surale is also a graduate of Bar Ilan University and holds degrees in English Literature and Talmud. This past year she wrote the weekly Parashat HaShavua column for Chumash Shemot in the leading religious Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon and periodically writes Divrei Torah for weekly Torah publications. Surale Rosen is married to a community Rabbi and lives with her family in Jerusalem.