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Life-Cycle Events - Birth

Baby Boys

Sarasota Temple BabiesJudaism welcomes baby boys with the ritual of brit milah. The Hebrew word brit means covenant. Circumcision in Judaism is a sign of the covenant between God and Israel which links one generation to another. The Rabbi will help you determine if a Pidyon HaBen is required.

Judaism views circumcision as a religious ceremony, thus, it is recommended that a Mohel perform the circumcision. A Mohel is a Jew who has been trained in the physical procedures of circumcision and understands the religious significance of the ritual. If a mohel is unavailable, then a Jewish physician can perform the circumcision. It is customary to invite the Rabbi to conduct the service. A brit milah is usually followed by a festive meal with family and friends.

Barring any unusual circumstances, the brit milah is performed on the eighth day of life, even if the eighth day occurs on Shabbat or a holiday. It is considered an honor to be given a special role in the circumcision ceremony and there are three important roles:

  • Sandak holds the baby on his lap while the baby is circumcised.
  • Vatterin is the "godmother" who takes the baby from the mother to the Kvatter.
  • Kvatter is the "godfather" who takes the baby from the Kvatterin to the Mohel.

 

The Ceremony of Pidyon Ha’Ben

The ritual of Pidyon Ha’ben literally means “Redemption of the Son” and applies to a relatively small number of Jews. It applies only to the firstborn male child if it is born by natural childbirth. Thus, if a female is the firstborn, no child in the family is subject to the ritual. If the first child is born by Caesarean section, the ritual does not apply to that child (or to any child born after that child). If the first conception ends in miscarriage after more than 40 days' term, it does not apply to any subsequent child. It does not apply to members of the tribe of Levi, or children born to a daughter of a member of the tribe of Levi.

Originally, it was intended that the firstborn would serve as the priests and Temple functionaries of Israel; however, after the incident of the Golden Calf, in which the tribe of Levi did not participate, God chose the tribe of Levi over the firstborn for this sacred role. However, even though their place has been taken by the Levites, the firstborn still retain a certain degree of sanctity, and for this reason, they must be redeemed.

The firstborn son (who meets the criteria above) must be redeemed on the 31st day (the day of birth being the first day). However, the ritual cannot be performed on Shabbat because it involves the exchange of money. The child is redeemed by paying five silver dollars to a Kohen and performing a brief ritual.

Contrary to popular opinion, there are no absolute religious rules or regulations concerning the naming of a Jewish child. The child may be named after any person, friend or relative, dead or living; or the child need not be named after any particular person at all. A traditional custom, however, is to honor the memory of a beloved person by naming a baby for that person.

Baby Girls

Baby girls are welcomed in a variety of ways, including baby-naming ceremonies at the synagogue or at home. The object of a baby-naming ceremony is to officially present the child with a Hebrew name. In this touching ceremony, a Hebrew name is affectionately given to the baby in its parent's arms. There is no set time for a baby-naming, and while some families choose to name their daughter shortly after the birth, others choose to wait for a few months.

Parents of a Jewish baby girl are invited to have their daughter receive her Hebrew name in the Synagogue any time the Torah is read: Monday, Thursday, or Saturday morning. However, many families choose to have a less formal ceremony and name their newborn daughters in their home. It is customary to invite the Rabbi to conduct the service. Family and friends may be invited to say a few words and the ceremony is usually followed by a festive meal.

 

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