Thursday, January 2, 2014

My new favorite name for a girl is …. Yilta!

I want to begin a campaign to name our girls Yilta. I did suggest this to my daughter Yoella, who is expecting in March (B’Sha’ah Tovah) and her response was … why it rhymes with gifilte … so now our name for Baby-To-Be is Yilte Gefilte Kriger, but Yoella has assured me that she will never agree to keep the name once little Yilta is born. I am sad….

So who was Yilta, you ask? It’s a fair question.

Some years ago, I had the privilege and honor of learning with Chana Safrai z’l, an AMAZING teacher of Talmud. One of her areas of concentration was the women who are named in the Talmud, and surprise, there are not many! So, as Chana taught me to do, I am hyper-sensitive to whenever we actually have a name, you understand, a name of her own, not the wife of this one or the daughter of that one. And YILTA is named for her own sake, even as the wife of Rabbi Nachman. Further, I would suggest that this is for very good reason and there is an important lesson to learn.

So here is the story (oh, and by the way there are others, so she was obviously VERY important). In Masechet Berachot (51b), Rabbi Ulla comes for dinner to Rabbi Nachman and YILTA’s house. They are have made Kiddush and Rabbi Nachman asks Ulla to pass the Kos Kiddush (the Kiddush cup) to Yilta. Ulla refuses and quotes a verse indicating that a woman is not blessed for her own sake but through her husband. Yilta hears this and is beyond furious. She immediately stomps away from the scene of this offense and proceeds to where the wine was stored and broke 400 jugs of wine (that’s a lot!). Nachman turns to Ulla at this point (and was not too pleased, I would imagine) and asks again for him to take a new cup of wine and to appease (apologize to?) Yilta. Yilta would have none of it however and really gave it to Ulla in poetic fashion of course, saying “from itinerant peddlers come ide words “ or something to that effect.

So here we have Women’s Lib in the Talmud. Bella Abzug would be proud!

So why won’t my daughter join my campaign? She stated that breaking four hundred jugs of wine is not a legacy she wishes to pass on. So, I asked her why so many of us love and use the name Yael. After all, do we want to name our daughters after someone who lured a tired warrior (granted not a worthy person, so we are taught) into her tent with warm milk and then speared his head?

Hmmmmm, well four hundred jugs of wine for rudeness? I think I am more comfortable with that, maybe. But do I really want to have a cute little girl named Yilta Gefilta? Well, maybe I have to think of another way to call attention to Rabbi Nachman’s formidable and important wife!

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