Changing The Name of A Choleh

1) The Sages teach us that one’s Neshama and his mission in life is connected and hinted within his name. As the sefer Bris Avos (8:47), citing the Arizal, writes, “It is a mere misconception that a parent names a child arbitrarily. Rather, it is with Divine inspiration. For it is known before Him the purpose and (eventual) actions of the child, be it for the good or for the bad, all of which are concealed in his name. Each letter of the name reveals more and more about the person. Even if one finds an evil person with a name destined for the righteous, it is clear that contained in him is a small spark of goodness”.

2) The gemara (Rosh Hashana 16b) lists four methods of changing a heavenly decree that has been issued against a person. The methods listed include giving charity, crying out to God, changing one’s deeds, and changing his name. Based on this gemara, the Rema (Yoreh Deah 338:10) records the custom to change the name of a dangerously ill person in an attempt to change the decree against him and save his life. The reason that changing the name can be effective is that one is altering the choleh’s spiritual makeup and thus changing his mazal. (See Minchas Chein on Rambam Teshuva 2:4, Sefer V’Ela Shmos by Rav Yaakov Hillel shlit”a and Sefer Otzar Dinim V’Hanhagim page 428) It goes without saying that one should not change one’s name unless he spoke to a prominent posek who understands both Halacha and Kabbalah.

3) The Gemara states that one should “change” his name and indeed Harav Yaakov Hillel shlit”a (V’Ela Shmos) feels that one must entirely change his name and merely adding a name is not effective. However, the overwhelming majority of opinions maintain that one should not change the name, but rather add a name. This is especially true according to the Ari z”l that one’s Neshama is connected to one’s name, one should therefore not uproot his original name entirely. (Gesher Hachaim 1:3:4, Taamei Haminhagim page 105, Yabia Omer 5 Y.D. 21:3 and Dvar Moshe Teumim 48)

4) The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (Shaarei Halacha U’Minhag vol. 3 page 3oo) writes that since the name of a person is the “spiritual pipeline” connecting the soul to the body one should not add a name unless it is extremely necessary”. The Sefer chassidim (245) rules that one may only change the name for a choleh who is in a life threatening situation. Once again, one should only alter the name after consulting a competent Halachis authority.

5) The new name should be added before the original name. For example if his name is Moshe and the are adding the name Refael, his name become Refael Moshe and not Moshe Refael. (Gesher Hachaim 1 page 31)

6) If one recovers from the illness for 30 days his additional name remains with him for the rest of his life (for aliyos, kesubos etc.). If, however, he did not recover for 30 days his additional name is not used on his tombstone. (Gesher Hachaim ibid.)

7) The Chida (Sefer D’vash Lefi) writes that when adding a name for a woman, one should not add the names Rachel, Batsheva, Tamar, or Leah, but should instead choose Chanah, Sarah, or Yocheved.

8) The poskim debate whether a person needs to re-write the Kesubah after his name is added. According to Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l a new Kesubah is needed, while according to Harav Elyashiv zt”l and Harav Wosner zt”l one need not write a second Kesubah. (See Hanisuin K’Hilchosom page 357 and Shevet Halevi 8:286)


Interruptions While Making A Bracha

1) When a person makes a bracha, he is required to eat or drink some of the food immediately. (S.A. 167:6) One may not speak until some of the food is swallowed. (M.B. 35)
2) If one did speak (about something unnecessary to the eating) before taking the first bite his bracha is not valid and a second bracha is required. (S.A.)
3) The Mishnah Berurah writes that if one first put some food in his mouth, started chewing it, and then spoke before swallowing it it is questionable whether the bracha is valid. It seems that his conclusion is that b’dieved the bracha is valid. However, it is important for people to avoid this issue and only speak after swallowing some of the food. (See V’Zos Habracha page 14)
4) The poskim explain that one should not make an interruption even if one does not recite any words. For example, if one wishes to instruct a family member to be quiet, he should not say “shh” or “nu” after reciting the bracha before swallowing some of the food. (See V’Zos Habracha page 16 and V’Sein Bracha page 46)
5) Similarly, one should not hum a tune after the bracha before eating the food. (Minchas Yitzchak 7:9 and Shevet Halevi 5:16. See, however, Halichos Chaim page 62 for a more lenient view) This is very common on Shabbos after the bracha of Hamotzi before eating the challah, one should not hum a tune. If one did hum a tune another bracha is not recited. (Shevet Halevi ibid.)

The Prayer Of Brich Shmei [בריך שמיה]

1) Whenever the Torah is taken out to be read, the  Aramaic prayer of Brich Shmei [בריך שמיה] is recited as it is removed from the Aron Kodesh.
2) There are different opinions when one should recite the prayer:
A- According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 4:70) and ybc”l Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a (Halichos Chaim page 56) one should remove the Torah and then recite Brich Shmei. [Rav Moshe does point out that one should not rebuke those that act not according to this view.]
B- The Minchas Elazar of Munkatch (Darchei Chaim V’Shalom 196) would recite the entire Brich Shmei and only then remove the Sefer Torah. This is also the custom of Sefardim (see V’Zarach Hashemesh page 9).
C- According to Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo page 144) held that one may recite it either before or after the Torah is removed. Either way is fine.
D- Rav Sarya Dblitzky shlit”a (V’Zarach Hashemesh page 9) writes that in his shul the custom is to begin reciting it with the Torah still in the Aron and to take the Torah out during the recitation of Brich Shmei.
3) In either event, one may continue reciting Brich Shmei while the Torah is being carried until the Torah is opened and ready to be read. (M.B. 134:13)

The Bracha of גאל ישראל

1) The Gemara (Brachos 9b) tells us that one should connect Geulah to Shemoneh Esrei. Therefore, during Shachris we recite the bracha of Guol Yisrael [גאל ישראל] (Geulah) immediately prior to Shemoneh Esrei. One may not speak or even wait any amount of time between the bracha and Shemoneh Esrei. (M.B. 111:2)
2) There is a debate whether one (who is about to begin Shemoneh Esrei) may respond amen to the chazzan when he recites the bracha of Guol Yisrael. According to the Shulchan Aruch (66:7) one may not respond amen. While according to the Rama one may respond Amen. The Mishnah Berurah suggests that one should conclude the bracha with the chazzan in order to avoid reciting Amen according to all opinions. In addition, one can quickly begin Shemoneh Esrei while the chazzan is concluding the bracha in order to avoid answering Amen.
3) Many chazzanim conclude the the bracha of Guol Yisroel quietly so the the congregation cannot hear the end of the bracha and would therefore not answer Amen according to all authorities. There were rabbanim, including the Yesodei Yeshurun (vol. 1 page 284) and Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a (Halichos Chaim page 38, Sheilas Rav page 212 and Ishei Yisroel 52) who endorsed this custom. However, Harav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l (Emes L’Yaakov page 43), Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo 7:18) and Harav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt”l (Gvuros Eliyahu 15, 19, 20) reject this custom and they rule that the bracha should be said out loud.