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Thank Heaven for little girls. A guide to celebrating the newborn.
Parents of a new baby girl are filled with joy and are looking for a way to concretize that ceremonially. When a Jewish boy is born, there's a Shalom Zachar, a Bris and sometimes even a Pidyon Ha'Ben. There's lots of guests, a festive meal, and often a photographer and videographer.
But what do we do for a baby girl?!
To answer this question, let's look at a Torah which says that Abraham was blessed with "everything" (Genesis 24:1). The Talmud explains that this "big blessing" refers to a baby girl (Baba Batra 16b).
Survival of the Jewish nation is primarily due to women.
Why is a baby girl singled out for this great praise, "everything?"
With the blessing of a baby daughter comes a realization of the fullness of life. The song says: "thank heaven for little girls." The Jewish people have always thanked heaven for Jewish women, because our survival as a nation has been primarily because of Jewish women.
At every crucial juncture in Jewish history, women have come to the forefront, steering the Jewish people in the right direction.
Beyond this, Jewishness is passed on via the mother. If the mother is Jewish, the child is 100 percent Jewish. Jewish identity passed through the mother has been universally accepted by Jews for 3,000 years, and was decided by God, as recorded in Deut. 7:3-4. The Talmud (Kiddushin 68b) explains how this law is evident from those passages.
Jewish identity passes through the mother, as universally accepted by Jews for 3,000 years.
From the fact that Jewishness goes by the mother, we see that the woman is entrusted with the awesome duty of instilling faith in God, observance of mitzvot, and Jewish pride. Metaphorically, the mother gives the baby food and love that brings out it's internal potential.
Celebrating the birth of a Jewish daughter is therefore a celebration of Jewish survival, of Jewish values, and of Jewish destiny.
The naming of a Jewish daughter is a most profound spiritual moment. The naming ceremony is linked to the public reading of the Torah. During the Torah reading, a special "Mi Sheberach" blessing is said. The blessing begins with a prayer for the mother's health. It continues with the giving of the baby's name – and a prayer that this new Jewish daughter should grow to be a wise and understanding Jewish woman of goodness and greatness.
The baby naming is traditionally followed by a "kiddush" in honor of the baby girl, where friends and relatives gather to share good food, speak words of Torah, and share the family's profound joy.
All the details of how to choose a name for the baby, and the significance of a Jewish name, are found in the article, "Naming Your Baby"
with thanks to Rabbi Mitch Mandel
Comment on this Article
Ever hear someone use a Jewish greeting and aren't sure what it means or how married, having a baby or watching their relative become bar or bat mitzvah.
Although Jews have adopted the languages of the countries in which they live, they have always tended to retain traditional forms of greetings and congratulations either in Hebrew or Yiddish and occasionally in Aramaic, and some of these forms of greetings are adaptations of biblical verses while others are taken from the liturgy. Many are merely the expression of an emotion in Hebrew or Yiddish without any literary source. In the list below the most common forms of greetings are given; the list does not include the many variations which sometimes exist nor does it include simple translations such as boker tov (= good morning).
Hebrew Literal meaning Occasions when said Origin and/or reference GREETINGS AND CONGRATULATIONS – GENERAL FORMS OF 1. Shalom or Shalom lekha שָׁלוֹם
Peace to you.
As a common greeting equivalent to "hello" or "goodbye"
Gen. 29:6; 43:27;
I Sam. 16:4
2. Shalom aleikhem שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם Peace to you. Same as above 3. Aleikhem shalom עֲלֵיכֶם שָׁלוֹם To you, peace. Response to greeting No. 2 4. Barukh ha-ba בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא Blessed be the one who comes. A common greeting, equivalent to "welcome." A child brought to the circumcision ceremony and a bride and groom approaching the wedding canopy are also greeted thus. The response to the greeting is No. 5 or 6. 5. Barukh ha-nimẓa אָצמִּנַה ךור ָּב Blessed be the one (already) present. Response to greeting No. 4 Ps. 118:26 6. Barukh ha-yoshev בָּרוּךְ הַיּוֹשֵב Blessed be the one who is sitting. Response to greeting No. 4. Used by a guest to the host sitting at the head of the table. 7. Shalom berakhah ve-tovah שָׁלוֹם בְּרָכָה וְטוֹבָה Peace, blessing and (all) good (to you). General blessing used by Sephardi Jews. 8. Ḥazak u-varukh חֲזק וּבָרוּךְ Be stong and blessed. Same as above Also used in Sephardi synagogues to a person who returns to his seat after having performed liturgical functions. 9. Yishar koḥakha or Yasher ko'akh יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ May your strength (increase) go straight. Congratulations for success and achievement. In traditional synagogues also extended to a person who has been called up to the Torah reading. 10. Ḥazak ve-emaẓ חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ Be strong and of good courage. Congratulations for success and achievement. Also extended to a bar mitzvah boy after he has finished reading the haftarah. e.g., Deut 31:23 11. Biz hundert un tsvantsik (Yiddish) (May you live) until the age of 120. A wish for long life. 12. Tsu gezunt (Yiddish) Good health. To a person who has sneezed; also to someone convalescing. 13. a. Li-veri'ut לִבְרִיאוּת Good health. Same as above b. Asuta אָסוּתָא (Aramaic) Good health. Same as above 14. Refu'ah shelemah רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה (May you have) a complete recovery. Wish to a sick person. SABBATH AND HOLIDAY GREETINGS 15. a. Shabbat shalom Gut shabes שַׁבַּת שָׁלוֹם (Yiddish) Good Sabbath. The Sabbath greeting b. Shabbat hi milizok u-refu'ah kerovah lavo שַׁבָּת הִיא מִלִּזְעֹק וּרְפוּאָה קְרוֹבָה לָבוֹא It is Sabbath and forbidden to make supplications but may you soon get well. When visiting the sick on the Sabbath Shab. 12a 16. a. Shavu'a tov A gute vokh שָׁבוּעַ טוֹב (Yiddish) A good week. Saturday night at the end of the Sabbath 17. Gut khoydesh (Yiddish) A good new month. On new moons 18. Gut Yontev (Yiddish) corrupted from the Hebrew Yom Tov A good holiday (to you). On holidays and festivals 19. a. Mo'adim lesimḥah מוֹעֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה Joyous holidays. On festivals. The response to which is No. 20. b. Ḥag same'ah חַג שָׂמֵחַ Joyous holiday. 20. Ḥaggim uzemannim lesason חַגִּים וּזְמַנִּים לְשָׂשֹׂוֹן Holidays and festivals for joy and gladness. Response to No. 19a and 19b This wording is from the prayer for the three festivals. 21. Ve-hayita akh same'aḥ וְהָיִיתָ אַךְ שָׂמֵחַ You shall have nothing but joy. On Sukkot, when visiting a person in his sukkah Deut. 16:15 NEW YEAR AND DAY OF ATONEMENT 22. a. Shanah tovah שָׁנָה טוֹבָה A good year (to you), or its more ample version: During the Days of Penitence b. Le-shanah tovah tikkatevu (vetehatemu) (לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ (וְתֵחָתֵמוּ May you be inscribed and sealed) for a good year (i.e. in the Book of Life), or its shorter form: The wording is from the prayers *Amidah and *Avinu Malkenu c. Ketivah tovah כְּתִיבָה טוֹבָה A good inscription (in the Book of Life). 23. Gam le-mar גַם לְמַר To you too. Greetings in Nos. 22a, b, and c, as well as 24a and b On the Day of Atonement, the day of "Sealing the book." Wording from the prayer book. 24. a. Hatimah tovah חֲתִימָה טוֹבָה A sealing for good (to you), or its more ample version: b. Gemar hatimah tovah גְּמַר חֲתִימָה טוֹבָה A propitious final sealing (to you) (in the Book of Life). As above. This form can be used until Hoshana Rabba. ON JOYOUS OCCASIONS AND FAMILY EVENTS 25. a. Mazzal tov מַזָּל טוֹב Good luck (i.e., may you enjoy a favorable zodiac constellation). For joyous occasions, especially childbirth, betrothal, wedding, bar-mitzvah, etc.… Ashkenazi custom. b. Be-siman tov בְּסִימָן טוֹב Same as above Same as above Sephardi custom. 26. Barukh tihyeh בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה Be you blessed (too), i.e., the same to you). Response to Mazzal tov wish 27. Le-ḥayyim or לְחַיִּים To life. On taking a drink, usually alcoholic. Shab. 67b. 28. Le-ḥayyim tovim u-le-shalom לְחַיִּים טוֹבִים וּלְשָׁלוֹם Good life and peace (to you). More ample form of No. 27. DURING MOURNING 29. Ha-Makom yenahem etkhem be-tokh avelei Ẓiyyon vi-Yrushalayim הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם May the Lord comfort you among all mourners for Zion and Jerusalem. To a mourner during the week of mourning. See: *Mourning ON YAHRZEIT 30. Ad bi'at ha-go'el עַד בִּיאַת הַגּוֹאֵל (May you live) until the coming of the Messiah. On the yearly anniversary of the death of a relative. Among German Jews. IN WRITTEN FORM ONLY 31. Ad me'ah shanah (עַד מֵאָה שָׁנָה (עמ"ש Until a hundred years. In the heading of a private letter, after the addressee's name 32. Zekhuto yagen aleinu (זְכוּתוֹ יָגֵן עָלֵינוּ (זי"ע May his merit protect us. After name of distinguished deceased; usually ḥasidic. 33. Zikhrono li-verakhah or Zekher ẓaddik liverakhah (זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה (ז"ל) זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה (זצ"ל May his memory be for a blessing.
May the memory of the pious be for a blessing.
After name of deceased; also in speech. 34. Alav ha-shalom (עָלָיו הַשָלוֹם (ע"ה Peace be on him. As above. 35. Natreih Raḥamana u-varkhei (נַטְרֵיה רַחֲמָנָא וּבַרְכֵיה (נר"ו (Aramaic) May God guard and bless him (you). Written form of address. 36. She-yihyeh le-orekh yamim tovim amen (שׁיּחיֶה לְאֹרֶך יָמִים טוֹבִים אָמֵן (שליט"א May he (you) live for many good days, Amen. As above.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.
Today’s episode is all about “mazal tov.” How do we congratulate friends who have a newborn baby? And what do you say when you’re not sure if it’s a boy or a girl, in a gender-based language like Hebrew? Host Guy Sharett has all the answers.
New words & expressions:
Mazal tov – Congratulations – מזל טוב
She-yihie be-mazal (tov) – Congratulations – (שיהיה במזל (טוב
Mazal tov la-yomuledet – Happy birthday – מזל טוב ליומולדת
Mazal tov al ha-herayon – Congratulaions on the pregnancy – מזל טוב על ההריון
Mazal tov al hadira – Congratulations on the apartment – מזל טוב על הדירה
Magi’a lecha mazal tov, lo? – You deserve a mazal tov, right? – ?מגיע לך מזל טוב, לא
Brachot – Blessings, greetings – ברכות
Ani me’achelet lecha she… – I wish that you… – …אני מאחלת לך ש
Eize keif lishmo’a – So happy to hear (the news) – איזה כיף לשמוע
Eize yoffie – How great – איזה יופי
Be-sha’a tova – May all go well/Congratulations – בשעה טובה
Bekarov etslecha/etslech/etslachem – (May we celebrate the same thing) for you soon – בקרוב אצלך/אצלכם
Ma ze/mamash samachti lishmo’a she… – I was so happy to hear that… – …מה-זה/ממש שמחתי לשמוע ש
Ratsiti/Ratsinu lehagid mazal tov – I/we wanted to say “mazal tov” – רציתי/רצינו להגיד מזל טוב
Looking for the monologue text? It’s available to our patrons at patreon.com/streetwisehebrew.
Playlist and clips:
Elad Shodler – Mazal Tov (lyrics)
Eric Berman – Beinonimi (lyrics)
Sarit Haddad – Me’achelet Lecha (lyrics)
Yehuda Sa’ado – Be-tsel Dmuta (lyrics)
Tsipi Shavit – Mazal Tov (lyrics beneath clip)
Want to see more Hebrew gems? Like Streetwise Hebrew on Facebook and Instagram.
Want Guy to talk about a pressing Hebrew issue? Find him at StreetWiseHebrew.com or follow him on Twitter.
guy sharettstreetwise hebrew
Ever hear someone use a Jewish greeting and aren't sure what it means or how married, having a baby or watching their relative become bar or bat mitzvah.
The conversation went something like this:
Amy: So we’re just going to be surprised when I give birth, right? Like when the doctor says, “Congratulations! It’s a ___!!”
Matt: Have you lost your mind? No, we’re not going to be surprised. Isn’t being pregnant at 40 surprise enough for you?
Amy: (laughing) Well, I didn’t know what Roxy and Everett were until they were born. You knew with YOUR son?!
Matt: (laughing) Uhhhhh, yeah I did! I NEED to know. NEED. How else are you supposed to prepare???
And then I sat there overthinking, a skill I’ve mastered, while remembering my previous pregnancies. I remember the panic I felt as a first-time mom-to-be, not totally secure in my decision to “not find out” and continually telling people my standard line of, “Well how many things can you truly be surprised about these days?” But I went with it, even as I started a baby registry with the urging of friends and family who were eager to celebrate with me. I picked out generic yellow and green everything, with frogs and duckies all while telling myself that I didn’t believe in perpetuating traditional gender roles but deep inside longing for pink, or blue, or ruffles or dinosaurs.
My freak out continued as my belly grew, wondering how I was possibly going to get all the things I was going to need as a first-time parent without having a baby shower—our traditional Jewish families didn’t believe in having one, as Jewish culture can dictate superstition for some people. No bringing baby stuff into the house! It’s bad luck! We settled on the garage as a safe zone as my due date loomed closer. My mom kept assuring me, don’t worry Amy, stuff will just arrive. I didn’t believe her for a minute.
In the meantime, my worry grew, as my Jewish ex-husband and I put a mohel on hold (my gut told me it was a girl but, let’s be real, it was a 50/50 shot in the dark) and discussed plans for a potential baby naming ceremony should we not be planning a bris, and I did my best to go with the flow and embrace tradition. All the while I truly wanted to ignore everything I was taught to believe and just do what I wanted to in order to ease my mind.
But true to my mom’s word, Roxy was born and I became best friends with the UPS guy and I’m pretty sure the recycling truck was tired of picking up boxes. Baby items kept showing up after she was born, and plenty of pink was there among the green and yellow. Roxy’s naming ceremony happened as close to eight days after her birth as possible, because I was a true believer that if a bris needed to happen in eight days for a boy, I wasn’t going to differentiate. I felt solace in my Judaism and was comforted by my decisions as the weeks went on, certain that at least I fulfilled connections of generations that came before me.
Two years later, I did it again with Everett—this time feeling a little better knowing I had the essentials already in place (and justifying because Roxy still used a lot of it) but still feeling an empty longing while painting his future room my favorite color orange and some jealousy over attending other baby showers knowing I wouldn’t be having one. I kept trying to make peace with tradition and telling myself it’s OK—if it’s a boy, the blue dinosaur onesies will be on my doorstep after this baby is born. I listened to our families and let tradition guide me, and lo and behold, Everett was born, there was plenty of blue, the mohel on hold showed up on day eight and all was right with my world.
Fast forward almost seven years later.
I’m laying on the ultrasound table with nervous anticipation. It’s my third child but it’s been awhile since my days of diapers and bottles. I’m on the edge of a total meltdown and I can hardly look at Matt, afraid if we make eye contact I’m totally going to lose it and start crying because it feels so new.
“So are we finding out?” the ultrasound tech asks us, as she guides the wand across my belly and pictures of the baby appear on the screen. Matt and I lock eyes and I look away quickly and answer before I can change my mind.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. He (pointing at Matt) needs to know. And I can’t have him know and me not, so let’s do this. Tell us. Tell us.”
The room is silent. In my brain I’m thinking please say it’s a girl. Please. It will be so much easier if it’s a girl. Matt already agreed with me that our child will be raised Jewish, but parameters haven’t been worked out and reconciling my desire to connect to tradition while honoring his beliefs has never been more overwhelming.Come on. Say it. Girl. It needs to be a girl. I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with the reality of boy. Putting the mohel on hold. I don’t know if I can do this. Girl. Girl. Girl.
I’m doing this chant on repeat in my head. Yet in my heart I know what she’s going to say before the words come out. I woke up at 3 a.m. knowing. The definite knowledge of what this baby is. And my gut is rarely wrong.
She zooms in and points to the screen.
There it is she says. Congratulations, you’re having a baby boy.
Matt laughs and says, “I knew it.”
So did I my love. So did I.
My heart is overflowing with joy, our perfectly imperfect family is growing, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re having a boy. Everett is beyond thrilled. Roxy whined that she already hassssss a little brother, but it’s OK mommy, I’ll love him anyway. Matt jokes to me about having a “brisk”—doing it on purpose to make me laugh and lighten my worry as I roll my eyes and say “It’s a BRIS!!!!” as he questions me about the food that I tell him people are going to show up with on day eight.
I have no idea how any of this is going to actually happen, or who the mohelim in Maine are or the myriad of questions that we still have unanswered or have yet to discuss. Bring on the blue dinosaurs and bottles. A baby boy. I stare at the printed ultrasound picture, hugging it close to my chest. The unknown has time to wait. Matt grasps my hand and kisses my forehead. I can’t wait to meet you my baby boy.
For more information, check out IFF’s Guide to Birth Ceremonies for Interfaith Families.
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I also heard that you shouldn't congratulate a Jewish woman on her not to have baby showers or buy things for their baby ahead of the birth.