I was given the name “Gleb” at birth, this is my legal first name today. The old and fairly rare East Slavic name “Гълѣбъ” of Nordic origin, where “Guðleifr,” means “heir of God.” “Leif / Leifur” also means “beloved” or “with love.”
My family of origin never observed any religious tradition, be that Orthodox Christianity or Hassidic Jewdaism. It was uncommon and dangerous during the Soviet times, and succeeding R.F. first turned materialistically-agnostic, then supremacy-Ortodoxal.
My grandmother chose the name “Lev” for me, common for both Slavic and Hebrew traditions. In the Russian language, it means “a lion.” It is not uncommon Russian name and the notorious Lev Tolstoy is well known by how many people lie about finishing reading his novel “War and Peace.” But in combination with my last name … I could become a walking target in the anti-Semitic reality of the early 1980s and my mother turned my name to more uncertain “Gleb.”
“Lev” is a common female Israeli name that means “heart” (Hebrew: לב, Loeb, Löb). “Leib” in Yiddish. It is found in German as Löwe, Löw. Loew, Lowe or Loewe - a lion. Or is it a lioness? In both Hebrew and German, the name is rarely given to a boy - and used as a surname. It is indeed feminine by nature, almost as an English word “sweetheart.” But a lion is a muscular wild cat, - a symbol of strength and leadership.
The astrological “Leo” is fixed modality associated with fire and the Sun. My actual sun zodiac is “Cancer” - a cardinal feminine sign associated with water and the Moon. The mythological Leo, the “Nemea” was a monster that could not be killed with any human weapon. And the idea of “King Lion” can be traced back to Babylonian Talmud. Such a polarity! How can one so feminine be so masculine? How can one be self-centered and selfless at the same time?
I heard this saying that to be Jewish means to hold a strange mixture of joy and horror within. There is an old book “Chovot HaLevavot” (Duties of the Hearts) that I struggled to study once. It is written in by a Jewish philosopher Bahya ibn Paquda in 11th century Aragon, Spain. A rare example of non-dogmatic religious text discoursing on the heart and soul of life and the means of creating an intimate spiritual relationship with the Divine (The Self, the Unity, Ultimate Love).
How do we choose the names? How do we “live our names” given us? Such an amazing mystery!
authority over using personal names