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Dvar for Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

Among many other housekeeping items, Parshat Bamidbar lists the grouping and order in which the people camped and traveled in the desert. Rabbi Frand points out two very curious names, for the tribes of Asher and Naftali (2:27-29). Asher’s prince was Pagiel the son of Ochran, where “ocher” implies one who perverts.” Naftali’s prince was Achira the son of Enan, and “Achi-ra” literally means “bad brother.” Why would parents name their children “pervert” or “bad brother”?

Rabbeinu Ephraim (one of the authors of Tosfot) offers an explanation: The tribe of Dan was known to have worshipped idols, and the tribes of Asher and Naftali were grouped with Dan in the desert. To counter the possible effects of complacency, acceptance and possible influence of a bad neighbor, those tribal leaders assumed new names not given to them by their parents. These new names would serve as constant reminders that although they/we sometimes face situations we cannot control, we should always strive to preserve our high standards.