Family Name and Honoring Sinful Parent
I am in the final stages of planning to become a Gher and in doing so resolving some outstanding Halachic questions concerning my final decision to go ahead with –exclusively of course– an Orthodox conversion.
I was born to an intermarriage whereby my mother was not Jewish at the time of my birth.
My father has passed away and i no longer have anything to do with his family and haven’t for many years.
My question concerns the decision I must make –whether or not to keep my current last name due to the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. (my name which is also my father’s last name is associated with his avera, having committed the sin of intermarriage with my non-Jewish mother).
Now, my instincts tell me to go ahead with legally changing my last name just prior (or immediately after) completion of the mikvah / Gher-ceremony. This is my current plan. However i wanted to get a confirmation from you as to whether this is a) Halachically required B) strongly recommended or C) as a matter of Jewish Law it makes no difference. Common sense tells me –as I understand Hashem– G-d would NOT want me to carry the last name that is so directly associated with the avera of intermarriage.
In fact, and to be sure, my thought is to blot this name (which is “Gilman”) completely out from me and my life.
In summary, given that the family name is clearly so very closely associated with marriage and family life, and given the very important Mitzvah to honor one’s parents [and I quote] “honor your father and mother that thy days may be long” it is clear to me that changing my name will certainly not be honoring my father. However, the question becomes whether or not this mitzvah applies to a situation where the father has transgressed the Torah in such a terrible way. (not only marrying a non-Jewish mother but also having non-Jewish offspring). Does the “Honor Parents” mitzvah apply to: a family name change –when such a change will occur in the process of becoming a gher–a completely new relationship with Hashem, with a “renewed” Jewish nishama (who after all, was in fact at Mt. Sinai and participated with Israel in agreeing to completely accept the covenant with G-d in acceptance of the 613 Mitzvot.
Your kind answer is very much appreciated. Toda Arba and Shalom.
Sincerely, Colin Gilman
While empathizing with your feelings and understanding why you would want to change your surname, there is no Halachic necessity to do so. It remains a personal decision. If you decide that want to change your name, you may do so without being concerned that there might be a problem with not honoring your father.
Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team