When Yaakov and his family start the move towards Egypt the Torah names the offspring of all his sons. About Benjamin it is said, “And the sons of Benjamin were Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Na’aman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard.” (46:21). According to the Midrash when Yosef, still without revealing his true identity, found Benjamin he asked him if he had children. He answered affirmatively, that he had ten children all of whom were named in memory of his lost brother:
“I had a brother whose actions were seemly and pleasant and he was taken away captive from me, and so I named my sons after what had befallen him: Bela because he was swallowed (nibla), Becher because he was the firstborn (bechor) of his mother Rachel, Ashbel because he was kidnapped (nishba), Gera because he lives (Gar) in a strange land, Naaman because his acts were pleasent (naim), Ehi because he was my real brother (ahi), Rosh because he was my leader (Rosh), Muppim because he was very good (Iafe) in all chores, Huppim because he could not be in my marriage (Chupa) or I in his, Ard because it resembled a rose bloom (vered). (Bereshit Rabbah 94: 8)
Ten children, ten memories. 22 years have passed since these brothers, Yosef and Benjamin, were separated. Benjamin was still young when they told him that his brother “was devoured by a wild beast” but he never forgot him. And each of his children is named after an event or quality of an uncle that until now they never knew. Benjamin according to the Midrash honored his brother by ensuring that the following generations would never forget Yosef, his beautiful qualities and his terrible misfortune.
Naming a son or daughter in memory of a loved one is an ancient Jewish tradition. The Ashkenazim do it only with relatives already deceased while the Sefaradim do it even when they are alive. This beautiful tradition allows us to make immortal here on earth those people we love.
Rab. Uriel Romano