Friday, November 07, 2008


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,[27] 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.[28] 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


At 3:09 AM EST, Blogger Roland Dodds said...

Google searches for Rahm have pushed my hit rate up significantly in the last 2 days as well. I can only hope its far left Obama supporters coming to the realization that Obama is not opposition to Israel they were looking for.

At 10:37 AM EST, Blogger bob said...

After a bit of googling, the weight of reportage seems to be in favour of the Irgun connetion rather than the Lehi one, but Ha'aretz is among the Lehi claimers. Of course, lots of Lehi members were ALSO Irgun members, so it's plausible that the answer is both.

Incidentally, I read recently that Lehi actually had far left members as well as Revisionists: it was the methods rather than ideology that united them. (I read that in Mike Davis' brilliant history of car bombing. Lehi played a key role in the chain of car bombing innovators. British policemen on the Arab side were also key figures in the history of car bombing.)

At 2:04 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spiritually, it is more of an antichrist name, blasphemous, that is, in someone taking for the name of a man to be: High God with US. Rahm Emanuel- Loftily or High God with us, if this is not seen as a spiritual clue, in the fallen spirits of men seeking to be as gods among men, then we deny the spiritual truth to be spiritually blind. And as for one who favors abortion and gay marriage in the spirit of population control, in a spirit of belief, being in the spirit of the UN, rather than having faith in God; having compassion for life, to spare the innocents, well you get the picture. It is true we are led, in our being, by spirits of belief, where we can become deceived unaware in a spirit of belief, believing one we trust until afterwards, in our denying the truth in the beginning to face it later: the error along with hardship and bloodshed. we almost went there, in Syria and debt ceiling, in people having lack of compassion for the truth of others: the bondage caused in arrogance in the lack of respect for freedom: peace of mind, where when you go against truth to bing people in forcing them then they will have a spirit to fight back, and will continue until the receive it. Just like if they turn America communist, later generations always will have a spirit to fight for it back, and freedom is of truth the spirit of America, But those in error think they can subtly, sneakily, slip it by change it using crisis we won't notice, but people always wake up and want back freedom and peace of mind. I sure they mean well but people are led astray in following in the spirit of another taking upon their spirit of belief, denying the truth, even as Atheism is a spirit of belief which seeks to strip out what is good from our communities: the spirit of loving one another. We see its effects, since the fifties- more lawlessness and hatred, in peoples lack of compassion; in all who have fallen short in loving others. Seektruthinlight


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