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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5773
Ask the Rabbi: The Celebration of a Girl’s Birthby Rav Daniel Mann
Question: What are the sources and purpose of making a kiddush for the birth of a girl?
Answer: I imagine you are referring primarily to the colloquial usage of Kiddush – a celebration involving food and hopefully divrei Torah – a borrowed term from the eating after the tefilla of Shabbat morning , which starts with Kiddush. We will see there may also be some significance to that setting.
It is generally a mitzva to thank Hashem for joyous and/or miraculous events that occur to us. One of the applications of this concept is Birkat Hagomel, which we make after being saved from danger. (See specific rules in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 219). While a meal is not required, sources indicate that it is a nice idea (see Berachot 46a), which parallels the Korban Todah in the time of the Beit Hamikdash.
It is unclear if there is an expectation that there be a celebratory meal for the birth of a child. When a boy is born, there is a seuda at the time of the brit and the pidyon haben (where applicable), but those are related to specific mitzvot, not the birth per se. The gemara (Bava Kama 80a) mentions two celebrations after the birth of a boy, shevua haben and yeshua haben, and there are different opinions as to whether one of them is what we call a shalom zachar.
There are also different opinions as to the nature of a shalom zachar. In brief, there are three basic approaches: it is a celebration of the safe extrication of the child from his mother’s womb to birth; we console the baby for loss of the Torah learned during gestation; it is related to the upcoming brit. The Dagul Meirevava (Yoreh Deah 178) says that it must be related to the brit mila because if it were related to birth, we would have it for the birth of girls. He, therefore, says it should be done the night before the brit. This is indeed what Sephardim do (Brit Yitzchak) and many Ashkenazim do special things on that night (in Yiddish, vach nacht). If so, there may not be a clear source for a birth celebration. There is an ancient Sephardi minhag of a zeved habat, which some have on the sixth night from the birth of a girl (Rav Pe’alim, Even Haezer I:12).
For Ashkenazim, there is no set time or formula for the celebration of a girl’s birth, and the consensus is that one is not obligated to have one. In some circles, people try to have one on the day of her naming (an event to which some attribute tremendous meaning – see Ta’amei Haminhagim 929). In turn some do the naming specifically on Shabbat, when many people will be present. (The presence of many people is generally desirable for meals of thanksgiving). Combining these elements, there may be special significance of having a celebration after Shabbat morning tefilla. There is also a baraita (Avel Rabbati of Massechet Semachot 2:3), which refers to a shevua habat (of a girl) in the context of shevua haben (see above). Perhaps that too has to do with Shabbat (based on one meaning of shevua).
The simple approach, though, is that while there is no specific obligation, timing, or setting, it is just good old logic to thank Hashem for such a monumentally joyous occasion (see Teshvot V’hanhagot I:609). There is also a classical source. The gemara (Bava Batra 91) talks about Boaz making 120 celebrations in honor of his sixty boys and girls, and Rabbeinu Gershom (ad loc.) says that 30 of those were after the births of 30 girls. Some also stress the importance of the berachot people make for baby and parents at the celebration (see ibid. II:132), and there are differing “legends” as to how important this is.
In summary, there is abundant general basis for a “kiddush” in honor of the birth of a girl and some sources for an established practice on the matter. It is our opinion that it should not become a necessary burden on the head of new parents, to be done at a specific time. It certainly should not have to include a high level of expense or toil, which may cause them difficulty at an often stressful time. Hopefully, the parents will find a good time to share their joy.
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This edition of
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l