For so many of us, a major source of summertime joy is finding our way to the water. Even during a pandemic, we can take some solace in outdoor activities, like paddling down a river, hiking around a lake, or taking a trip to the beach.
Yes, the Talmud tells us that Jewish parents are obligated to teach their children to swim — but there are also a myriad of Jewish stories that reference our holy relationship to the water. From the biblical creation story, to Moses parting the Red Sea, to Noah building the ark, water is an essential feature in the lessons we learn again and again. Water is cleansing and holy in the Jewish tradition of the mikveh, the ritual bath, and it is a source of life and celebration for biblical characters like Miriam who find water after wandering the desert.
Some of my favorite childhood memories involve swimming in the ocean at my family’s annual trip to the Jersey Shore. I always loved the playful decision of jumping over vs. ducking under the waves (which is also a big fun metaphor to unpack, if you so desire). There is still nothing more grounding for me than this time I spend in the ocean at the end of the summer.
That sense of connectedness to this vast and ever-changing life force — water — has always been a spiritual feeling for me, one I think many people share. If you are having a late-summer baby, this powerful relationship between humanity and H2O can be honored and shared with your family by choosing a baby name that honors the source of all life. See our list of 14 water-inspired Jewish baby names below.
1. Adva — Adva means “ripple” in Hebrew, which is a subtle reference to the small yet powerful impact that every person has on our large world.
2. Dalit — In Hebrew, Dalit means “to draw water, ” which is a conventionally female role that can be reclaimed as an expression of gratitude for our abundant natural resource.
3. Dinah — In Anita Diamant’s novel The Red Tent, the reimagined biblical character Dinah has a divine and spiritual connection to water. When Dinah travels with her family to Canaan, she becomes drawn to the water and floats in the river: “I moved my arms through the water, feeling them float on the surface, watching the waves and wake that followed my gesture. Here was magic, I thought. Here was something holy.”
4. Mayim — Mayim translates directly to “water” in Hebrew. You might be familiar with this name because of the illustrious Mayim Bialik, whom you likely know from her acting career and her words at Kveller.
5. Miriam — Naming your daughter Miriam honors the biblical character of Miriam, the sister of Moses who watched her brother float down the river. After leading her people and showing them song and dance and how to be free, she earned her people the gift from God called Miriam’s Well — which was a spring that kept the Israeli nations alive during their 40-year exodus. Miriam also means “rising water” in Hebrew. It is also my Hebrew name so maybe I’m biased.
6. Guy — Guy means “valley or ravine” in Hebrew, both of which hold endless possibilities for water. In English, Guy is pretty masculine-sounding and also offers rich potential for jokes and a good sense of humor.
7. Moses — One of the most well-known figures of the bible, Moses led the Jewish people to the land of Canaan, which is now known as Israel. Along the way, Moses parted the Red Sea, a demonstration of the divine relationship between people, God, and the sea. This biblical name translates from Hebrew to mean “drawn from the water.”
8. Jonah — Jonah is a biblical prophet known for his rebellion against God. When Jonah disobeys God’s order and travels across the Mediterranean Sea rather than in the direction of Nineveh, God brings a storm to Jonah’s ship and he is swallowed by a giant fish. However, once Jonah gets out of the fish he fulfills the prophecy and delivers the God’s message. This nautical name reminds us of the importance of both faith and skepticism.
9. Noah — Noah is a biblical character known for saving his family and members of every species from the great flood. Meaning “comfort,” the name Noah reminds us that we can handle any challenge life may throw at us.
10. Gal — Gal means “wave” in Hebrew, honoring the unpredictable yet constant ocean. In these uncertain times, this name reminds you that you can’t control everything, and sometimes you need to yield to the tides.
11. Maayan — Maayan means “spring of water” in Hebrew.
12. Tal — Tal means “dew” in Hebrew, reminding you of sweet summer mornings and wet grass at camp.
13. Tsedef — This Hebrew name means “shell,” reminding of the beauty that can come from the overwhelming ocean’s surroundings.
14. Yam — Last but not least, Yam means “sea” in Hebrew. Embodying the all-encompassing ocean, the name Yam reminds us of our power and strength, as well as to live in a holy way, remembering our connection to the earth.
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