Planning & Executing Your Daughter's Brit Bat

Parents face many choices in preparing a welcoming ceremony and party for their baby girl.

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When you have a brit milah for a boy, the planning is pretty simple--if you like, you can just do what the mohel tells you to do and arrange for some lox and bagel platters. When preparing to welcome a daughter, what, how and when you're going to do it is all in your hands (along with your rabbi, cantor or others you call upon to help plan and lead the ceremony). This can be both fun and stressful--below are some of the things that will make your planning a little easier. 

The Big Picture

The first thing to do is to sit down with your spouse, partner, or other close family member or friend, and get a general picture of what you want. Is your goal a big party or something more intimate? Is your home the place you want to have your daughter's ceremony, or a synagogue? Do you have a rabbi or knowledgeable friend in mind to lead it, or is that something you want to do yourselves?

Do you have older children who you'd like to involve, and what would you like them to do? Having them give a meaningful Jewish gift to their new sister--like a tzedakah box-- is always a sweet moment, especially if it's something that they can make themselves, with your assistance, at a paint-your-own pottery place or even out of arts and crafts materials.

What and When?

Of course, the two central questions you need to answer are what you want to call it, and when you want to have it.

There are lots of different possibilities for names for this event. Simchat bat, which means "Rejoicing in a Daughter" or "celebration for a daughter," is the most popular and general term for such a ceremony. If you are focusing on the covenantal aspects of the ritual, you may want to call it a brit bat, or "daughter's covenant." As the Sephardim do, you can call it a "zeved habat," or "gift of a daughter." Other choices include chag hachnasat la-brit, or "celebration of bringing [her] into the covenant," and brit banot yisrael, "covenant of the daughters of Israel." (Then again, you can simply call it a Day of Blessings and Celebrations, or a babynaming, in English.)

The next thing to consider is timing. Unless the baby is ill, a boy's brit milah is held on the eighth day of his life, even if it falls on Shabbat or Yom Kippur. For girls, the choices are open-ended. If you wish to parallel the timing of a brit milah (and are either very organized or already prepared for the birth of a daughter!), you can choose to schedule this event on the eighth day of her life.

But don't feel pressured; you can have it after 14 days (in the Torah, a mother's ritual impurity after a daughter's birth lasted two weeks); when she is a month old (echoing the ancient belief that a child was only viable after 30 days); or after 80 days, the length of time that the Torah tells us a woman had to wait after birthing a girl to bring the sacrifices to the Temple. 

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Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a staff writer for The Jewish Week.