WELCOMING A CHILD into a Jewish home, whether through birth or adoption, is cause for great celebration.
In the PJ Library selection A Song for My Sister by Lesley Simpson, the main character Mira is thrilled that her wish for a baby in the family would come true -- but who knew they would make so much noise! No matter what Mira and her parents do, the baby’s reaction is “Waaaa!”
On the day of the baby's simchat bat (Jewish welcoming ceremony for a baby girl) Mira finally finds the answer to all the wailing.
Traditionally, a baby boy is formally taken into the community with a brit milah, a bris ceremony (ritual circumcision).
» Learn about a Bris Ceremony on Kveller.com
Some families are choosing to welcome a new daughter with a simchat bat
(literally “joy of a daughter”), a ceremony in which the little girl receives her Jewish name.
As writer Debra Nussbaum Cohen explains in the Kveller.com piece, “Welcome Ceremonies for Baby Girls,” there are many different ways to plan and carry out a welcoming ceremony for a baby girl. She points out that whether the ceremony is called a Brit Bat, a Simchat Bat, or something else, there are some key features to keep in mind:
- Singing -- Nussbaum Cohen calls the act of singing a “powerful way to create a sense of holy space.” She suggests a Jewish traditional wordless tune, called a niggun, which says is “easy for people to join in” or another meaningful song.
- Introductions -- A welcome speech is often appropriate. “This is a time to outline what guests should expect,” Nussbaum Cohen writes, “and to note the presence of honored people in attendance.” It’s also a good time for a Hebrew welcome. “The Hebrew words Brucha ha-ba'ah b'shem Adonai (Welcome in the name of the Creator),” she adds, “are often recited.”
- Blessings, Rituals, Prayers & Readings -- Relevant and meaningful passages are often selected and read aloud at a simchat bat. In addition, the Birkat haGomel is said -- Birkat haGomel is a prayer of thanksgiving for the baby’s having come through a potentially life-threatening passage.
Nussbaum Cohen also points out that a simchat bat often includes “a ritual welcoming of this new daughter into the Covenant or celebrating her membership in it.” The ritual might include wrapping the baby in a tallit (prayer shawl), lighting candles or something else.
Other common blessings include the shehecheyanu or the hamotzi. The shehecheyanu is, as Nussbaum Cohen explains, “often recited when an individual or family reaches a new occasion.” The hamotzi is the blessing over bread recited at the start of a meal (often following the ceremony).
» Read about ‘Alternative’ Naming Ceremony Ideas and Rituals
- Presenting Gifts -- Oftentimes, close family members will present gifts to the baby girl, “particularly Jewishly-meaningful ones,” Nussbaum Cohen writes, “like a tzedakah box, kiddush cup, or candlesticks.
For naming ceremony planning tips, read Nussbaum Cohen’s related Kveller piece, “Planning a Naming Ceremony
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July 16, 2012