One of the wonderful things about planning a brit bat (or a welcoming ceremony of another name for a Jewish girl) is that in many ways the family can choose from a wide range of options–or even craft their own ceremony. As a relatively new lifecycle ritual, though one rooted in ancient tradition, this event has neither a fixed form nor predetermined content, which means that if you are planning a ceremony for a new daughter, you can it to reflect the family’s personality and orientation toward Judaism.
That being said, over the three decades that parents have been welcoming their daughters with ceremonies meant in some way to parallel that of brit milah for boys (that is, to give equal weight to the birth of a daughter), a certain loose structure has emerged. It is one which makes logical sense, and follows the flow of elements in other Jewish lifecycle rituals, including brit milah.
Here are the most common elements and their order:
· A song. Singing together is a powerful way to create a sense of holy space, to distinguish the time of the ceremony from that which preceded it, and to bring everyone together in fellowship. Someone leads people in a Jewish traditional wordless tune, called a niggun, which is easy for people to join in on, or a contemporary Jewish or meaningful secular song.
· An introduction welcoming everyone to this joyous occasion. This is a time to outline what guests should expect and note the presence of honored people in attendance–rabbis, special friends and relatives, and anyone else who has had a notable role in the baby’s first weeks of life.
· Hebrew welcome: The Hebrew words “Brucha ha-ba’ah b’shem Adonai–Welcome in the name of the Creator,” is usually recited by the person leading the welcoming ceremony, or by all the assembled guests, to greet the baby as she is carried into the room.
· Blessings of thanksgiving by the baby’s parents: Birkat haGomel, the prayer of thanksgiving for having come through a potentially life-threatening passage, is traditionally said by a woman after childbirth. It is customarily said the first Shabbat that the mother has gone to synagogue after the baby is born, after reciting the blessing over the Torah reading. If she hasn’t done this already, the mother can recite Birkat haGomel now.
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