There are a number of rituals and customs that accompany a new baby to help mark this exciting time in a family’s life and add intentionality and Jewish connection. We have found a number of articles and websites from around the globe that help explain the origins and basis for these traditions.
Baby Shower – the custom of not having a shower before the baby is born is based in superstition and not Jewish law. Read more. Here’s another take on whether or not to to have a shower. And here’s an article from the Huffington Post about customs based in superstition.
Naming a Child – Ashkenazi tradition suggests naming your child after someone who has passed in memory of that person and in hopes the child will take on the strengths of that person. Sephardic tradition suggests naming the child after someone still alive, often a grandparent, to honor the person while they are still living. Read more.
Hebrew/Yiddush Names – In Jewish tradition especially in the US, often children are given a second Hebrew or Yiddush name. Some families also choose to use a Hebrew or Yiddush name that act as both. Need suggestions, check out Kveller.com’s Baby Name Lists. There is some debate about when to announce the Hebrew name of a newborn child. Here is some insight from multiple religious perspectives. Often this name is used when a person is called to the Torah.
Brit Milah – Also known as a bris or circumcision is a ritual that happens eight days after a baby boy is born and welcomes him into the covenant of Judaism. If you’ve never been to a bris, here’s a great article on What to expect at a circumcison.Here’s another article on how to explain a bris to children.
Brit Bat – Also known as a Simchat Bat or naming ceremony. This relatively new Jewish ritual does not have any prescriptions on how to conduct the ceremony or when to conduct it. There are many resources to help you plan and conduct a welcoming ritual for a baby girl including this guide to planning a Brit Bat. Interfaith Family.com also has a beautiful guidebook for planning a brit bat. And finally, here is Kveller.com’s suggestions on planning a Brit Bat.
Aliyah – there is a tradition of giving the father, or parents, an aliyah the next time the Torah is read after the birth of their child. Typically, a prayer is said for the health of the baby and the mother. A girl baby could also be named at this time, although there is no set law or tradition as to when you publicly name a baby girl.
Offering Congratulations – in more traditional Jewish circles, there is a custom of offering Beshaah Tovah instead of Mazel Tov when you learn someone is pregnant as a blessing for the future rather than of the past. Beshaah Tovah wishes that all things happen in their right time (during the pregnancy, labor and delivery) rather than Mazel Tov which congratulates the couple on conceiving. Read more.
Setting up the Nursery – you may have heard a Jewish tradition of not setting up the nursery before the baby is born. The most common explanation for this is a superstition involving the ayin hara, or evil eye. Read more. And if you are looking to add a little Jewish flair to the nursery, here’s an article on decorating your Jewish nursery.