In Jewish tradition, a baby boy gets his Hebrew name at his bris, at which point you can finally stop calling him “the baby”. Abraham, the very first Jew, received his Hebrew name at his bris, and that’s when his name was changed from the Aramaic “Abram” to the Hebrew “Abraham”. Also, the Torah tells us that one of the reasons G-d saved the Jewish people from Egypt is because they did not change their Jewish identities, particularly their Hebrew names.
Parents are free to choose any Hebrew name they desire, and our rabbis say that the name you choose will actually reflect the child’s personality and essence. It is also said that God gives parents a little bit of prophecy when they’re naming their children.
Some Common Customs
Ashkenazi Jews usually name the baby after a deceased relative -- often the child’s grandparent or great grandparent. This serves as a beautiful way of perpetuating the memory of a loved one and reaffirming our rich heritage passed down through generations of our history. The common practice is that a couple’s first child receives the name of a relative from his mother’s side of the family, unless the mother acquiesces. Generally (although there are no fast rules), the names then alternate between the two sides of the family.
Sephardic Jews follow a similar practice of naming the baby after a relative, though not strictly relatives that are deceased. They also name after living relatives (with the exception of the baby’s parents and siblings, which wouldn’t be a very practical idea anyway). The common practice among Sephardic Jews is to name the first boy after his paternal grandfather.