Back in July, the summer before I converted, I was pretty sure my Hebrew name would be Neriah Ami bat Avraham v’Sarah. You see, I was born during Chanukah and I always loved the nerot tamid in the synagogues I visited, in addition to the concept of Holiness as Light. Add in the fact that I finally felt like I had found my people, and I thought I had the perfect name.
I wasn’t excited about the Abraham and Sarah part–did I really feel like they were my spiritual parents more than any of our other patriarchs and matriarchs? do I feel like announcing my status at each aliyah?–but I did not have a good enough reason in my mind to part ways with tradition.
Then, the February before I converted, my mom asked me some questions about the conversion process and names came up. Needless to say, she wasn’t happy with the formula for converts. She felt it erased her and my father from her life. On the one hand, I could understand her emotional response. Most mothers take pride in their children and want to be associated with the wonderful adults they helped to nurture. Mine takes it to a whole new level of possession and self-congratulatory recognition.
But, she is my mother. And hearing this come from her mouth made me want to talk to my rabbi. He listened, and then he suggested Nataliah–the name my mother picked out for her future daughter in high school–plus the Hebrew syllable ‘ah’ for G-d. It was perfect–I like my name in English, I liked the poetry of adding G-d to my life symbolized in adding this symbol.
The issue was over for three months, until my BFF said it wasn’t enough, that it didn’t seem like me due to my strong dislike of the Spanish version of my name that sounds very much like this selected Hebrew one. And to be honest, I was not too happy about letting go of my light-based idea.
So off to the library I went. I borrowed two volumes. And I pored through, letter by letter, putting each name going into one of three columns on a t-chart: (1) like the sound, hate the meaning; (2) like the sound, like the meaning; (3) hate the sound, like the meaning. The chart grew to about 150 names. I asked BFF and I asked The Boy, and I settled on 10. But I knew. I knew from the moment I put the name down in the second column that Nehara would be my second name. It meant fire/light, and it meant little river. It captured the fire/water metaphor from my essay perfectly.
I was worried about the alliteration, but now I like it. I like being n-squared.