Name games


By Simon Rocker
October 31, 2011
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In the past couple of weeks, we have read about the Creation and the Flood in the Torah portions of the week. But for all the drama of the stories, both sedarot end on a seemingly anti-climactic note with a list of names detailing the generations from Adam to Noah in the first sidrah, and then from Shem to Abram (he does not become Abraham until this week) in the second.

It’s easy to find your attention wandering when they are recited but one curiosity is to pick out which names are still in currency today. Understandably, no one is going to call their son Cain; Abel instantly evokes the American Bible Belt. But Seth, the name of Adam’s third son, enjoys greater popularity.

I can’t think of any Methusalehs, but you’ll still come across Chanoch, the Hebrew for Enoch. Does the name Ada derive from Adah, one of the wives of Lamech? I don’t know. You are unlikely to bump into a Mahalaleel today but Jared (son of Mahalaleel) is still around.

Few of the names of Noah’s genealogy survive – although Ashkenaz (son of Gomer) is first mentioned in the Bible: so too is Ashkenaz’s uncle Magog. I have never found anyone named Mash (son of Aram). But one name revived in modern Israel is Ophir, son of the prolific Joktan.

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