Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
October 18, 2004 – Number 5765-4
Brit Milah IV – Simchat Bat
Traditionally, a baby girl was named in the synagogue on the first day the Torah was read after her birth. The father would come to the synagogue and would be called for an aliyah to the Torah. After the Torah was read and the blessings finished, the gabbi would then add a Mishebayrach, a prayer for the good health of the mother and for the Baby. Since this prayer requires the Hebrew name of the mother and the baby, this also doubled as the naming for the baby girl. After the service, a kiddush would be sponsored by the father in honor of his daughter.
Since this baby naming service is far less joyous than the Brit Milah for a boy, in modern times there has been an attempt to try and equalize the two ceremonies. Judaism does not authorize or condone what is sometimes called “female circumcision”. It is absolutely forbidden as mutilation of the body. What we try and do is create a ceremony that will speak to the special ritual statues of a daughter. There are different attempts that have been made over the last 50 years or so and I will try and explain them in terms of how common they have become.
In many places, the time the father comes to synagogue is lengthened to a full month after a girl is born. This allows the mother and baby to be present in the synagogue. If the congregation is egalitarian, than the mother and baby are called with the father to the Torah for the aliyah and for the Mishebayrach. A more elaborate party can follow since there is more time to prepare the food and invite friends and relatives. We usually don’t wait longer than a month lest the family get busy and forget to do the naming until too much time has passed.
There have been many attempts to have home naming ceremonies called, “Simchat Bat” or “The celebration of a daughter”. There are many different ceremonies that have been created for this purpose. In some ways one can write their own ceremony since the custom is so new that there are no traditional rituals. Some of the rituals that have been proposed include lighting candles, a cup of wine, seven blessings relating to birth and creation. An prayer that includes the naming is also a part of the service, usually this is a form of the Mishebayrach used at the Torah for the naming.
In some places, the family will have a community naming at the synagogue on a Torah reading day and then invite friends and family to a separate ceremony at their home. When looking for a Simchat Bat service, contact the Rabbi who may have many model services in his or her file to look at and get ideas. Many Rabbis have their own favorite Simchat Bat service and will be happy to share it with you. The ceremony is also followed by a Seudat Mitzvah, a meal in celebration of the mitzvah of naming a girl.
For both boys and girls, if the child is named for a relative, the parents should write and read to the congregation, at the naming, the reason why they chose this name for their son or daughter. They can call attention to the qualities of the person for who he or she was named as to why it speaks to the hopes and dreams of the parents of the child. What can this baby learn from the lives of those for whom he or she was named. After the naming, this “speech” should be put away and saved for future celebrations. At the bar or bat Mitzvah it can be retrieved and read to the friends and family again to see how many of the dreams of the parents have come true. It can also be used at the wedding as a final look at how the memory of the people for whom they are named, has been continued by the actions and life of the now mature child.
Next week: Pidyon HaBen, Adoption and other Miscellaneous laws concerning birth