Image: Sleeping infant wearing a purple flower cap. (pixabay)
Having a baby girl?
There’s a welcome custom for infant girls, which is called by several different names, depending on the community: brit bat (covenant of the daughter,) zeved habat (presentation of the daughter,) or simchat bat (celebration of the daughter.) It may consist of many different elements, but the center of the ceremony is the gift of a Hebrew name for the little girl. This is the name by which she will be called to the Torah when she is old enough, called at her wedding, and the name that will be read at her funeral.
Brit bat is a relatively new lifecycle ceremony with ancient roots. It has been revived in recent years in Ashkenazi communities as families wished to welcome a daughter with the same enthusiasm that they welcome sons. In some Sephardic communities, zeved habat has been celebrated for centuries.
A brit bat, like a brit milah or bris, may be held either in the home or at the synagogue. A rabbi might officiate, or in the absence of a rabbi, a Jewishly knowledgeable member of the family might do so.
Like a bris, the infant will receive a Hebrew name. Unlike a bris, there is no circumcision and it need not be performed on the eighth day after birth. Often parents hold it when grandparents or other relatives can come to town and participate.
Some elements one might include in a brit bat:
- A song or a niggun, a wordless turn sung together by all present
- A welcome to the guests, and introduction of grandparents and other special guests
- A thanksgiving prayer for the deliverance of mother and child
- A shehecheyanu blessing, giving thanks that this day has arrived,
- Readings from Song of Songs, such as 2:14 or 6:9
- A welcome of the baby girl to the covenant, which might include wrapping her in a prayer shawl, or wrapping the entire family in a prayer shawl
- The official naming of the baby girl with her Hebrew name
- Poems, prayers, and other readings (for the choices available, talk with your rabbi)
- Close with the hamotzi blessing for bread and the blessing of wine in a kiddush cup
The ritual would normally finish with a festive meal or snacks.
Have you been to a brit bat? What was memorable about it?