What’s In A Name? by Josh Markovic


In this week’s Parsha we see that Joshua’s name is used as Hoshea and not Yehoshua, the name Moshe gave him. What is the reason for this?  Does it really matter what someone’s name is?

There is a famous story that Rabi Meir, Rabi Yehuda and Rabi Yossi were traveling right before Shabbat and arrived at an inn. Rabi Meir asked the innkeeper what his name was. The innkeeper replied that his name was Kidor. Rabi Meir did not want to stay at this inn because the innkeeper’s name had to do with evil, as the Pasuk in Haazinu says, “Ki DorTahpuchot Hema, “for they are a generation of reversals.”  Since it was right before Shabbat, he agreed to stay at that inn but he buried his money before Shabbat in a nearby graveyard. The other Chachamim gave Kidor their purses to hold over Shabbat. On Friday night, the innkeeper had a dream. His father appeared to him in a dream and said, “There is money right near my head, and you may as well take it.” In the morning, Kidor asked Rabi Meir what he thought about the dream. Rabi Meir replied, “I think it is meaningless.” On Motzaei Shabbat, Rabi Yehuda and Rabi Yossi came to the owner asking for their purses. “Purses? What purses? You did not give me anything!” They went to Rabi Meir and told him the story. Rabi Meir said, “Why didn’t you realize from his name that he was a bad person?” Rabi Yehuda and Rabi Yossi asked Rabi Meir why he didn’t warn them. Rabi Meir said that he was not completely sure, so he decided to use caution. The three Chachamim decided to get the innkeeper drunk so that he would confess that he had hid the money. In the end, he did come clean about taking the money.

This shows that a person’s name has an influence on him.  For instance, Baruch is someone who is blessed, and Aryeh is someone who is strong. There are a lot of reasons for why the Torah writes Hoshea instead of Yehoshua. According to the Kli Yakar, when Yehoshua went to Eretz Yisrael with the other spies, Moshe named him Yehoshua to save him from the sin of the spies. Yehoshua means “God will save”. Since this name was only for the generation of the spies, and they had all died, he did not need it. The Ibn Ezra states that only the leaders knew his name and not the rest of Bnei Yisrael. Since Moshe and Yehoshua were in front of the entire Bnei Yisrael, the Torah uses the name known by everyone.

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