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Welcoming girls

When God commanded Abraham to circumcise Isaac on his eighth day of life, it sealed Isaac as the heir to the covenant; the son of Abraham designated to quicken the Divine scheme. But Isaac was not Abraham's only son. There was Ishmael, son of Hagar. And there were several other sons from a third wife, Keturah.

What of daughters?

For the rabbis of the Midrash, centuries ago, it was obvious that Abraham had daughters. Did it not say that God blessed Abraham in "everything?" And how could Abraham be fully blessed without fathering daughters as well?

Related:
Introduction: Bloodletting

Covenant for girls

Brit milah: A choreography

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Similarly, the Jewish people have taken the Torah's silence regarding welcoming newborn daughters as an invitation to creativity. Over the centuries, around the world, communities have invented ways to express private and communal joy over the birth of a baby girl.

Not surprisingly, this creativity has accelerated in recent decades, with the creation of new rituals, known variously as brit bat or shalom bat, to recognize and celebrate an infant girl's place in the Jewish people.

Many couples have written their own ceremonies, drawing from traditional (and sometimes modern) poems, verses, prayers and songs. The Conservative movement has published versions in which parents may place the baby’s hands on a Torah scroll, light her face in the glow of a candle, or wrap the newborn in a tallit, a prayer shawl.

Traditional rituals

The most common traditional ritual is a naming ceremony which takes place in the synagogue, at a Shabbat service after the birth, with both parents attending. In many communities, the mother recites a blessing of gratitude for her health and well-being after childbirth; and the father is called to the Torah.

But elsewhere, the ceremonies are more elaborate.

In the Sephardi communities of Turkey and the Balkans, infants are clothed in elaborate dress and jewelry. The ceremony has no fixed date, but is usually held sometime between seven and thirty days after birth, and is conducted by a rabbi, usually at home but sometimes in the synagogue.

Factoid:

In celebration of baby girls in Izmir and Rhodes, seven candles are placed on a tray filled with rice and candies, and relatives are given the honor of lighting them.

Celebrating the first time an infant girl is laid in her cradle is common in several Central Asian Jewish communities. In Bokhara, for example, small children are called to participate in snatching away the sweet treats that have been placed around the baby in the cradle. During this ceremony, the cradle is lifted up several times.

In the Bene Israel community in India, the naming ceremony usually takes place on the twelfth day after a girl is born. Held in the home, the ritual is intended primarily for the women and children of the family. A special new garment is sewn for the child, and her cradle, decorated with flowers and colored paper, is placed in the middle of the house. Cooked chickpeas, peeled pieces of coconut, and cookies are arranged along the inner edges of the cradle.

Web Resource:
Thank Heaven for Little Girls
B'nai B'rith International Jewish Monthly writes about welcoming girls
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In the Yishuv HaYashan (the community of Ashkenazic Jews who settled in Jerusalem beginning in 1811), the celebration took place on the eighth day, and the baby girl's ears were pierced.

 

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