Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Baby Naming

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A couple recently contacted me via email to ask me for help in preparing for their daugher's upcoming baby naming.

When my own daughter, Zehara Yehudit, was born, I found myself dissatisfied with the standard text for a girl's naming (we Sephardim call it a Zeved Habat.) In general, when called upon to name a newborn girl in my current synagogue, I freely amend the phraseology in the Siddur that I find objectionable. I followed the same practice when I served the Sephardic community in Riverdale, NY. There is nothing problematic about this, since the format of a baby naming is a matter of custom and not Jewish law.

I am certain that the lackluster and, in my opinion, blatantly sexist wording of the traditional Zeved Habat prayer reflects the general preference Jewish people (especially Sephardim) have for boys. Not to mention the fact that the birth of a male child is always followed by a Berit Millah and is therefore perceived by the community as a more significant event than the birth of a female.

As a result, just over two years ago, I took it upon myself to compose a prayer that is based on traditional sources but is more consistent with my personal view of the spiritual significance of the birth of a new daughter. I hope the thoughts and sentiments it contains resonate with my readership as well.

To download the Zeved Habat prayer, click here. Feedback will be much appreciated.

21 comments:

David Guttmann said...

It is very nice. I don't like "Uketoza'ah mima'amtzeinu". Besides the fact it does not flow with the rest, it also seems to imply a lack of Bechirah - kind of Kafah aleihem har kegigit. I would consider softening with something like utevarech ma'asseinu ...

Here I go doing the Shmuel hakatan act ...

By us all we do is a mi shebeirach vezehu zeh.

You got my vote!

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

You're right, that phrase doesn't flow well with the rest. I will try to improve upon that part.

What bothers me about the Sephardic prayer in particular is that its concept of blessing for the daughter is that she should get married to a wealthy guy and have "banim zecharim" (male children) - as if that would be a consolation prize for the parents or something!

SephardiLady said...

I had to grab my siddur off the shelf to remind myself of the text. I imagine that if one wanted to just drop the word zecharim they could. I didn't think there was an indication of marrying rich, although I'm not sure women would have been able to become wealthy themselves so your comment stands. (On a side note. . . . I hope all of my future daughters will marry someone who expects to support them and not the other way around. I'd like my grandchildren to have a parent at home.)

All that said, I like your text a lot. Fortunately, there is a ceremony for girls amongst Sephardim. The singing and ruach is really beuatiful.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

(On a side note. . . . I hope all of my future daughters will marry someone who expects to support them and not the other way around. I'd like my grandchildren to have a parent at home.)

I agree! It is mainly the banim zecharim thing that irks me.

Unfortunately, in general, the pizmonim for girls do not emphasize spiritual matters to the same extent that the pizmonim for boys do. The songs for a berit are full of references to the study of Torah and observance of mitsvot, while the songs for a Zeved Habat are essentially romantic in nature.

SephardiLady said...

What pizmonim are generally sung for girls? I can't remember which ones, if any, were sung at our Zeved HaBat. I just remember Siman Tov and Shabechi.

Speaking of birth ceremonies, I was looking through my Siddur and noticed something I never noticed when we made a brit milah. Where Ashkenazim say l'Torah, l'Chuppah, u'lmassim tovim, Sephardim add u'mitzvot between Torah and Chuppah. This just struck me as an interesting difference. Do you know if it is universal? The progression of learning to doing to establishing a bayit ne'eman and actualizing with true ma'assim tovim could make a really nice dvar Torah should we be blessed in the future with more banim zecharim. :) But we will take either gender.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

There are some pizmonim for baby namings, like "Yefat Ayin Lebavtini", "Yaala, Yaala", and several others that are based upon verses and themes from Shir Hashirim. They are all very beautiful.

littlefoxling said...

are you aware of anywhere on-line that has the old text?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

LF, good question - off the top of my head I'm not sure, but I can look around a bit and get back to you.

badrabbi said...

Dear Rabbi;
You wrote, "There is nothing problematic about this, since the format of a baby naming is a matter of custom and not Jewish law"

What do you mean by this? Are you saying that had this been Halacha, even if it were objectionable, you would not consider changing it?

BARZILAI said...

You might be interested in knowing that the Drishoh in Yoreh Dei’oh 360:2 says that the kri’as sheim for a girl is as important as the bris by a boy. He says that the same way that attending a bris has precedence over halvoyas hameis and simchas chosson, krias sheim by a girl has the same dinim of k’dimoh over them.

Good luck reading that. I know you love ashkenazi transliteration.

Regarding the comment of 6:51, I say that if one finds halacha objectionable, he needs spiritual therapy. If he is lucky, one day he will understand what was wrong with him, not what was wrong with the halacha.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Barzilai,

Thanks! I wasn't aware of that source.

Anonymous said...

"Wow" I know this it sounds familiar "oh it is familiar" .Yes, this is how the reform movement started; not liking certain aspects as it did not fit with their modern GESHTALT mindset so they made their own version of tefillos and removed ceartin tefillos all lihalacha but we all know what happened in the end."AL TITOSH TORAS IMECHA" All I am saying is be careful

BARZILAI said...

Anonmous of 5:11, I disagree with you. People think that davenning was engraved in stone thousands of years ago, but that is wrong. Do you know how many tefillos were added since the time of the Chasimas Hatalmud? The majority of what we say is more recent than that. Obviously, most of the pizmonim and the piyuttim are relatively recent, and the whole Kabbalas Shabbas was added by the people in Tzfas around the time of the Beis Yosef, and Brich Shmei was stuck in not long ago. In fact, a talmid of the Mahrsha was a prolific piyut writer, and we say his stuff on the yamimi nora'im. The Bach is constantly talking about changes in nusach that he holds are recent and questionable. It's not nice to take things out without serious thought, but adding things? Nothing wrong at all.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Barzilai, my thoughts exactly.

Anonymous said...

I know during the times of the communist they wanted to add a tefillah for them and it was rejected because of this situation imagine now davening for the Russians behind the Iron curtain,And removing and changing it it means the mesorah is changeable and additions and subtractions can be made at will,and rabbi you may be a great rabbi but a far far cry from the Mechaber and the other aforementioned Rabbonim To my knowledge (not that its much) The Mishna berurah and more recent people did not add for this reason

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous above, do you sing Shalom Aleicheim on Friday night?

Anonymous said...

YES!?

Anonymous said...

in my opinion, blatantly sexist wording of the traditional Zeved Habat prayer reflects the general preference Jewish people (especially Sephardim) have for boys. Not to mention the fact that the birth of a male child is always followed by a Berit Millah and is therefore perceived by the community as a more significant event than the birth of a female.

Blatanly SExist much like this gemurah
שמחים שנהנו מזיו השכינה וטובי לב שכל אחד ואחד נתעברה אשתו בבן זכר Moed Kotton Daf tes
I think your somewhat blatantly self hating and trying to modernize just remeber our culture and the ppl who made are smarter than you

Josh Hosseinof (Teaneck) said...

Rabbi Maroof, You are not the first orthodox Rabbi to question the text of the Zaved Habat. See Rabbi Shalom Messas's (late chief Rabbi of Jerusalem) siddur "Vezarach Hashemesh" p. 494:
מי שברך אמותינו הקדושות, שרה רבקה רחל ולאה, ומרים הנביאה ,ואביגיל, ואסתר המלכה בת אביחיל, הוא יברך את הילדה הנעימה, ויקרא שמה בישראל "פלונית" מלכא דעלמא יברך יתה ויזכי יתה, ויקים בה מקרא שכתוב: ויברכו את רבקה ויאמרו לה, אחותינו, את היי לאלפי רבבה, ויירש זרעך את שער שונאיו. ובחיק ירא אלקים תנתן. וכן יהי רצון ונאמר אמן

The "Vezarach hashemesh" siddur follows the Moroccan minhag. Another Moroccan siddur "Siddur Avoteinu" by Rabbi Eliezer Atiyah has also a piyut/zemer for the birth of a girl.

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Anonymous said...

It might interest you to know there is a different interpretation of "banim zecharim". According to adoneinu moreinu verabeinu, atteret rossheinu verosh galuteinu hacham yosef haim of badghdad ichron tzadik vekadosh livracha uzechuto yagen aleinu amen(the Ben Ish Chai) the meaning of this blessing is "zecharim shelo zarim"... according to the mekubalim, the letter caf is associated with humility which is the quality for which the people of Israel were rewarded with the land of Israel. The brachah is that one's children shall have the humility represented by the caf earning them to be zecharim (i.e. mentioned, or of note) instead of zarim - strangers who will be spit out by the land. Interesting to note is that we Sephardim and mizrahim add a caf for this purpose in the blessing in shmone essreh during minha.... "mi ke'amecha keisrael, goy ehad baaretz"... grammatically, it should be "mi ke'amcha Israel" not "keisrael". The caf is added to remind us that if we are humble, we merit the land.