The Seven Names of Yitro and His Seven Daughters

By Molly Geller, a student at Midreshet Devora (

Parshat Yitro opens with Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law having an interest in all of the miracles that Hashem performed for B’nai Israel.

Rashi on Shmot 4:18 comments that Yitro had seven names- "Sheva shemot hayu lo: Reuel, Yeter, Yitro, Chovav, Chever, Keni, and Putiel.”

Why does Yitro possess seven names?

In Shemot 2:16 we learn that Yitro had seven daughters: "U'leCohen Midyan sheva banot". The only daughter whose name is mentioned in the Torah is Tziporah, who will later become the wife of Moshe.

I would like to suggest that Yitro's seven names can correspond to the seven daughters that he had. The meaning of each of Yitro’s names can represent a characteristic trait that he held and wished to pass down to one of his daughters. Or his name can come to foreshadow an event or action that Yitro himself and his daughters will do in the future.

The first name that Rashi lists is Reuel. The name Reuel first appears in Shemot 2:18 when Yitro's daughters come back home to Reuel. Rashbam comes to teach us that when the pasuk writes Reuel it really means that the daughters came back to their grandfather and that it is not uncommon for one to refer to their grandfather as their father, so therefore it may not have actually been Yitro. Since the name Reuel is seen as a family name, chances are that Yitro gave his first daughter this name since it represented the lineage of his family.

The 2nd name mentioned is Yeter, which Rashi says means to add. The name Yeter was given to Yitro because he added an extra section/ Torah portion to the Torah. His daughter's name could be Yetera, showing us that he hoped that she would add to the Torah and the Jewish people.

Yitro is the next name and can be linked to his daughter Tziporah. Yitro did not recieve this name until he became a prophet. He had been known as Yeter before and only when he started to prophesize did Hashem give him the merit of having another letter added on to his name. While Tziporah was not a prophetess she did have the ability and connection to Hashem to know when to step in and do the right thing. This can be seen when Moshe sets out to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and Tziporah steps in and circumcises her son. She follows in Yitro's path by seeing how important it is to be close to and follow Hashem's words.

The next name that comes up is Chovav which according to Rashi means lover of the Torah. This name symbolizes the later period of Yitro's life as he took an active role in learning about Hashem's miracles and the Jewish people. The name Chovav could have been given to his last daughter since he became interested in the Torah and the Jewish people later on in life.

The next three names- Chaver, Keni, and Putiel are not defined by Rashi. However, the definitions found of their root or shoresh was very interesting. Chever which means friend, represents Yitro in such a great way. He was a caring man, who was never recorded as having been hostile to anyone and he reached out to people, as he was the Priest of Midyan. His daughter, whose name could have Chavera, was blessed with a natural ability to reach out and look out for others as her father clearly did. An example of Yitro looking out for others can be seen in this week's parsha as Yitro saw Moshe working himself too hard for the Jewish people and told him he must appoint other men to help out and Moshe will handle the biggest issues.

Keni is from the same root as Kinian- meaning property or possesion. Yitro had many sheep and we know that his daughters would take out and watch and water his flock. It is very possible that he owned lots of land and possessions as he was of high stature being the priest of Midyan. He therefore gave the name of Kiniana to one of his 7 daughters hoping she would grow up to own land and be a hard worker like her father.

The last name mentioned by Rashi is Putiel, which is similar with the word Putam. In the dictionary, Putam is defined as fattened and stuffed. This daughter, Putam, could have been the daughter who brought out the food and prepared the meal when in Shemot 2:20Yitro asks his daughters why they did not invite Moshe to come over and break bread. The next pasuk says how Moshe did come over and break bread, so therefore Putam could have been the daughter to prepare the meal. 

According to Rashi and Chizkuni, in Shemot 2:16 since Yitro had stepped down from his role as priest of Midyan to believe in One God, he and his daughters were ostracized from their community. They were not welcomed and had to remain strong together and keep their emunah, faith.

We can come to learn from Yitro and the names that he possessed how significant one's name can be. Names hold a special meaning as they represent who we are and who we can become.

Molly (Tziporah) Geller, 19 is a student at Midreshet Devora ( Molly is originally from Dallas , Texas . Molly is the daughter of Paul and Miriam Geller and a graduate of S.A.R. High School in Riverdale , NY . Molly plans to attend Stern College for Women next year in New York City . She is having an awesome time in Israel!


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