In a message dated 5/15/2006 2:55:10 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
<< My family surname is BEST.
My g-grandfather came to the UK in about 1845 >from Holland.
I have a theory (but no evidence) that the name may have been a contraction
of BEn Shem Tov.
Also, in my searches in JGFF, I've seen the surname BAST which again may be
a contraction of BAt Shem Tov. >>
==R' Israel b. Eliezer, "founder" of modern Hasidism in East Europe in the
2nd half of the 18th century, was known as Ba'al Shem Tov, abbreviated as
==Ba'al Shem Tov (Owner/master of the Good/Divine Name) was a title of
respect for a rabbi who had studied the mysteries and was believed to be capable
of healing or other magical qualities. "Knowing" the ineffable and forgotten
name of God was believed to permit such a person to change the natural course
of events. (e.g. the Mahara"l of Prague who made a living golem out of clay
by anoouncing the sacred name).
==Other Ashkenazi rabbis before him and after him--even in Germany and the
west, were called Baal Shem Tov. I don't know that any of them was ever
referred to as Besht
==Lars Menk in his dictionary of German Jewish names hints at an origin in
the name of a location in Saarland, and possibly another near
Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. The name may also be an abbreviation of a number of Jewish names or of
locations. It is also a German surname.
==I don't think Bat Shem Tov is in the running.
1. The patach vowel of Bat would generally not be part of the abbreviation
2. Women weren't generally accorded surnames based on a father's name,
though their personal names could be converted into family names.
Michael Bernet, New York