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In the Ashkenazi community, namegiving ceremonies for newborn girls were not widespread and often limited to the father announcing the baby's name in the synagogue on the Shabbat, Monday, Thursday or other occasion when the Torah would be read following the birth. Sometimes a kiddush will be held at the synagogue for family and friends. Although ceremonies can be found in Ashkenazic sources. Rabbi Yacov Emden includes a text in his famous prayer book . In the 20th century, interest in traditional ceremonies for welcoming baby girls has been revived, and new ceremonies have evolved. These ceremonies are often known under the newly coined terms Simchat Bat or a Brit Bat. There is no explicit source in the Mishnah or Talmud specifying when girls should be named.
In medieval times, girls were named during Shavua Habat (lit. "week of the daughter"). In early German Jewish communities, a baby naming ceremony was developed for both girls and boys called a Hollekreisch, which literally translated to mean the giving of the secular name. The ritual took place after Shabbat lunch. The babies were dressed up, and boys were draped in a tallit. The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) was placed in the crib. The crib would then be lifted up and the following recited in German: Hollekreisch ! How shall the baby be called? Ploni Ploni Ploni (i.e. his or her name three times). This was done for boys who had received their Hebrew names at their brit mila already. Nuts, sweets and fruits were then distributed to the guests. The custom applied to both boys and girls.
In the Sephardi community the Zeved habat is usually celebrated within the first month of the birth. It is held privately in the synagogue or at a party at home. It is often led by the ḥakhám or hazzan. The main elements of the ceremony are the mother's thanksgiving for deliverance (Birkat hagomel); the recital of Song of Songs 2:14 (and, in the case of the first daughter born to the mother, Song of Songs 6:9); and the namegiving prayer itself in the form of Mi sheberakh (imoteinu) (see below). Additional elements may include Psalm 128 and the Priestly Blessing (Birkat kohanim).
Mi sheberakh blessing
The words in parentheses are recited in the Moroccan Jewish community.
מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ (אִמּוֹתֵינוּ) שָׂרָה וְרִבְקָה. רָחֵל וְלֵאָה. וּמִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה וַאֲבִיגַיִל. וְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה בַּת אֲבִיחַיִל. הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת הַיַּלְדָּה הַנְּעִימָה הַזּאת. וְיִקָּרֵא שְׁמָהּ (בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל) פלונית. בְּמַזַּל טוֹב וּבְשַׁעַת בְּרָכָה. וִיגַדְּלֶהָ בִּבְרִיאוּת שָׁלוֹם וּמְנוּחָה. וִיזַכֶּה לְאָבִיהָ וּלְאִמָּהּ לִרְאוֹת בְּשִׂמְחָתָהּ וּבְחֻפָּתָהּ. בְּבָנִים זְכָרִים. עשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד. דְּשֵׁנִים וְרַעֲנַנִּים יְנוּבוּן בְּשֵׂיבָה. וְכֵן יְהִי רָצוֹן וְנאמַר אָמֵן׃
- English Translation
“The one Who blessed (our mothers,)
Sarah and Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and the prophet Miriam and Abigayil and Queen Esther, daughter of Abichayil — may He bless this beloved girl and let her name (in Israel) be ... [insert first name here] with good luck and in a blessed hour; and may she grow up with good health, peace and tranquility; and may her father and her mother merit to see her joy and her wedding, and male children, riches and honour; and may they be vigorous and fresh, fruitful into old age; and so may this be the will, and let it be said, Amen!”. (See Psalm 92:15)
Many Ashkenazi communities use a prayer for the health of a mother and newborn, recited by someone called up to read from the Torah scroll, as an opportunity to name a baby girl.
מי שברך אבותינו אברהם יצחק ויעקב, הוא יברך את האשה היולדת () בת () ואת בתה הנולדה לה במזל טוב, ויקרא שמה בישראל () בת () בעבור שבעלה ואביה יתן לצדקה. בשכר זה יגדלה לורה לחפה ולמעשים טובים. ונאמר: אמן.
He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - may He bless the woman who has given birth (new mother's Hebrew name) daughter of (her father's Hebrew name) with her daughter who has been born at an auspicious time, and may her name be called in Israel (baby's Hebrew name) daughter of (baby's father's Hebrew name), for her husband, the infant's father, will contribute to charity on their behalf. In reward for this, may they raise her to Torah, marriage and good deeds. Now let us respond: amen.
The Simchat Bat ("Celebration of the daughter") or Brit Bat (loosely, welcoming the new daughter into the covenant) are now becoming more common. The celebration typically consists of a communal welcoming, a naming done over a cup of wine with the quotation of appropriate Biblical verses, and traditional blessings.
"Moreh Derekh", the Rabbi's manual of the Conservative Judaism movement's Rabbinical Assembly, presents a ceremony based on traditional Jewish forms, with a number of options that parents may choose to perform: (A) Lighting seven candles (symbolizing the seven days of creation) and holding the baby towards them, (B) Wrapping the baby in the four corners of a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), or (C) Lifting the baby and touching her hands to a Torah scroll.
- Herbert C. Dobrinsky: A treasury of Sephardic laws and customs: the ritual practices of Syrian, Moroccan, Judeo-Spanish and Spanish and Portuguese Jews of North America. Revised edition. Hoboken, NJ (Ktav); New York, NY (Yeshiva Univ. Press), 1988. (Pages 3-29.)
- Book of prayer of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, London. Volume One: Daily and occasional prayers. Oxford (Oxford Univ. Press, Vivian Ridler), 5725 - 1965. (Page 180.)
- "Namegiving", in A guide to Jewish religious practice, by Isaac Klein. New York (JTS), 1979. (Page 429.)
- "Berit Benot Yisrael", in Hadesh Yameinu = Renew our days: A book of Jewish prayer and meditation, Ronald Aigen. Montreal (Cong. Dorshei Emet), 1996. pages 228-233
- Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe Elisheva Baumgarten, Princeton University Press