What's in a name?
Plenty, it appears, judging by the lively interest in the blogosphere in the meaning of Rahm Emanuel's name, ever since Obama announced his pick for the WH Chief of Staff. I thought it amusing, and educative, to collect some of these name-explications:
"Rahm" means "mercy" in Arabic.
"Rahm" also means both "frame" and "cream" in German and, I suspect, in Yiddish too. I always imagined his name as summoning up "the cream of the crop" or something that will always rise to the heights.
Abunimah pointed out that Emanuel's middle name is "Israel," and described Emanuel's father as "a gun runner for the Irgun, the Zionist, pre-Israel Zionist, militia that carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians, including the bombing of the King David Hotel. Of course, Rahm Emanuel himself is not responsible for any of that, but his record is sometimes far to the right of President Bush when it comes to supporting Israel."
Fox trivia: “Obama’s name means Lightning. In Hebrew ‘Rahn’ means thunder”
As often, Fox is wrong. “Ra’am” means thunder in Hebrew. “Rahm” is apparently an abbreviation of “Rahamim”, a popular Hebrew name (meaning “Pity”) and, so we are told, the name of Emanuel Sr’s commander in the Irgun.
The above collection has been culled from comments on Harry's Place and The Stump.
As far as I can make, wikipedia has furnished the best explanation:
"Rahm ... means "high" or "lofty" in Hebrew, while his last name, Emanuel, means "God is with us." According to his father, his son is the namesake of Rahamim, a Lehi combatant who was killed. Rahm’s surname was adopted by his family in 1933, after Rahm’s paternal uncle, Emanuel Auerbach, was killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem."
This, from the Jerusalem Post, expands:
Then there was Benjamin's brother Manuel - "Uncle Manny" - about whom [Rahm Emanuel] knows "very little." He was killed in Israel in 1938, and in his memory Rahm's grandfather changed the family name from Auerbach to Emanuel.
I read somewhere else that Rahm's father was a member in the "Irgun", not "Lehi", which was more radical and militant.
Plato's Hermogenes says "Nothing has its name by nature, but only by usage and custom." . I would further argue that a name encapsulates history, both of the collective and the individual. In Rahm Emanuel's name, this seems more than usually true. Each of his names trails a story, invoking a life of an individual and the place of that life in his people's history.
A conversation with the brothers Emanuel
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Friday, November 07, 2008