“Choosing your baby’s name is a second conception that begins the process of shaping the human being…your child will become. With a name, you begin giving your child an identity, a community, and a way of understanding the world and his or her place in it.”
– Anita Diamant, The New Jewish Baby Book
Recently, someone asked us where our children’s names came from and it’s something I’ve been wanting to write about, so I thought now would be a good time. I’ve already written about how we named Gamli’el, so I thought I’d explain the story behind Shmu’el’s name.
Shmu’el is the Hebrew equivalent of Samuel – it’s what Hannah (or “Chana” in Hebrew) named her son in 1 Samuel 1:20 (“Samuel” being the English transliteration of “Shmu’el.”) We have always felt impressed to give our children Hebrew names, as it is the original language of God’s chosen people, and the name Shmu’el has special meaning to us because of the story behind his conception and his birth…
After the birth of our third daughter, my husband and I both began to pray for a boy. We were perfectly happy with our girls, and were not looking for a boy to “complete” our family in any way. But we both wanted the opportunity to raise a son, and so we began to “make our requests known to God.”
One day, when our third daughter was 6 months old, I was laying in bed when suddenly I “heard” God speak to me. I have no way to describe this, except to say that it wasn’t an audible voice, but rather a thought that seemed to come from outside of me. I “heard” God say to me “You’re going to have another baby soon, and it’s going to be a boy.” Needless to say, I was thrilled! Of course, I realize that this may sound strange, too, after all how did I know that God had really spoken to me? All I can answer to that is: I just knew. :) And so I was happy. I also recognized that “soon” in God’s timing did not necessarily mean the same as “soon” might mean to me, so I assumed I would get pregnant within the next year or two, and was ready to wait for our little boy. As it turns out, God had more to say to me on this subject, and our conception would happen “sooner” than I’d thought.
At this point, I need to give you a little bit of background history about our family. My husband and I are Christians, and we strongly believe that it is by “the grace of God [we] have been saved, and not through works.” However, we also follow the commandments given to us by God in the Torah (first five books of the Bible) because we can find no biblical evidence that they were ever “done away with at the cross” as many churches believe and teach. This is obviously another post all it’s own, and I’m sure I’ll get there some day. But for now, suffice it to say that we follow God’s commandments as a way to show our love toward Him, and not as a means of earning our salvation.
One of the commandments that we follow is commonly referred to by the Jewish people as “Niddah.” “Niddah” is the period of abstinence from sexual relations mentioned in Leviticus 15. Those who practice it differ as to whether the period of abstinence is to last for 7 days or for 14. A few months after I had gotten the word from God regarding our upcoming pregnancy, my husband and I began studying on this subject but were coming to no solid conclusion. For me, especially, this issue was a big deal and at the time I was very eager to know how we were meant to practice it. You see, my husband and I do not use birth control and firmly believe that children are blessings from the Lord. We desire to give God an open door to bestow on us as many blessings as He would be willing to give us and I, especially, am desirous of a large family. I knew that the way we practiced Niddah could affect our fertility and so I was very desirous to find out which of the two methods were correct. Unfortunately, we simply could not come to a solid conclusion either way and so I began to pray in earnest that God would reveal to me the “correct” way to follow His commandment.
And He did. In a very big way.
From here, I am going to copy the emails I sent to friends of mine during this time, because they are a testimony to what happened in my life and the circumstances surrounding Shmu’el’s conception. Except for a few changes for the purposes of clarity, and some for privacy (these were written to some of my closest friends so they have some “girl stuff” in them that I tried to word in a way more appropriate for the public) they are copied exactly as I wrote them, and the dates are unchanged…
Subj: Something to share
Date: 8/4/2005 5:51:22 AM Central Standard Time
I’m sharing this with a limited number of people because after praying about it, I felt that I should. If I’m right – Glory to God! If I’m wrong… well, I’m still learning how to discern God’s voice. :o)
You guys know that I’ve been wondering about how long, exactly, Niddah is supposed to last. I’ve had a few discussions with _____ about it, but I still don’t have any solid opinion. Thus far, my husband and I have been practicing it as if it only lasts 7 days, but we are not sure whether this is right. Well, about two weeks ago, I was in my time of Niddah and during the first 7 days [the period of abstinence] I “heard” God tell me that if I will practice Niddah the way He wants me to, I will become pregnant the next time my husband and I come together. Not being sure if this thought was REALLY from God, I didn’t say anything to my husband about it and we came back together on the 8th day. Well, I tend to have very long cycles. Most of the time, after I am Niddah I will ovulate again on day 20 or so [counting from the day I begin my cycle.] Not long afterward, however, I found myself ovulating [this is somewhat obvious to any woman who knows what to look for], and I was curious about it because it seemed that this time my cycle was very short and I was wondering exactly how long it had run. I checked the calendar and saw that it was day 15, exactly. Needless to say, I was surprised. [This was significant because had we practiced Niddah according to a 14 day period of abstinence, we would have come together on the very day I was ovulating, which would have increased my chances of getting pregnant.] I believe now that if we practice Niddah “correctly” next month, (14 days instead of 7) we will be blessed with another pregnancy.
We’ll see. :o)
Subj: Something to Share
Date: 8/27/2005 2:21:30 PM Central Standard Time
Hi everyone!!! Last time I wrote you all with the title “something to share” it was to tell you that the last time I was in my cycle, God had promised me that if we would follow Niddah “correctly” we would be blessed with another child. Because of the fact that I ovulated on day 15, I took that to mean that if we would practice it by abstaining for 14 days we would be blessed with a pregnancy on the 15th day. So I was anxiously awaiting my time of the month to come upon me again so that I could become pregnant!!! However, as time went by I became more and more anxious as the time for Niddah approached and past and still I did not start my cycle. However, as I had said before I tend to have very long, somewhat irregular cycles so I wasn’t terribly concerned. But then I started getting extremely tired and was having to take two and three naps every day. I started to pray and seek God about what was happening, worried that something might be wrong with me. In prayer, it occurred to me that perhaps I was wrong about which cycle was the “correct” one. I knew that my “word” from God was simply “if you practice Niddah correctly, you will be blessed with another child.” He had never specified what “correctly” meant. Pondering this, I decided to take a pregnancy test. It came back negative. I waited a little while longer and found myself in a continual state of exhaustion. I started to tell Jon [my husband] that if I wasn’t pregnant something was seriously wrong with me, and asked him to pray about this. As time passed, I became more and more convinced that I was, indeed, pregnant and that I had misinterpreted what God had told me (by assuming that a 14 day cycle was “correct.”) I’ve been apt to misinterpret His words before!!! ;o) I took another test. It was also negative. These are high-sensitivity tests that are supposed to be able to tell you if you are pregnant up to 6 days after ovulation. Pretty sure about what day I ovulated (and theoretically conceived) I was taking them two full weeks after ovulation and still getting negative results. The fatigue continued. I went through the last of my pregnancy tests and they all continued to show a negative result. I was starting to get very worried about my health!!! Then someone on the Quiverfull digest [www.quiverfull.com] announced that they were selling pregnancy tests and I bought some more of them. Today I woke up at 7am, went back to bed until 9, stayed up until 9:30 and then went back to sleep until 11. I WAS SURE SOMETHING WAS WRONG!!! At 11:30 Jon checked the mail and my second set of tests had arrived. He told me to go take another pregnancy test, knowing that I was still experiencing major fatigue and that I was worried about it. He figured that maybe the old batch was simply defective. Before taking it I went to pray, and asked God to please confirm it to me if I was pregnant. I took the test and sure enough… we’re expecting another child!!! (A little boy, to be exact). ;o) I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jon and I are now convinced that the time of abstinence for Niddah is 7 days. :o) I’m so excited, I couldn’t wait to share that with you guys. Rejoice with us! We’re having a baby!!! :oD
After this, it was easy for my husband to determine what our baby’s name should be…
“So it came to pass in the process of time that Channa conceived and bore a son, and called his name Shmu’el saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the Lord.’”
The name Shmu’el has a double meaning. It means “God has heard.”
It also means “One who hears God.”