Question: Upon the birth of a son, common custom is to hold a Shalom Zachor on Friday evening for family and friends. But what about the birth of a girl? Some Modern Orthodox families hold a Simchat Bat on Friday night, but there doesn’t seem to be a source for this in Jewish literature. Are these Jews acting properly?
Answer: To answer this question, we need to examine the halachic basis for holding a Shalom Zachar on the first Friday night after a baby boy is born.
The Pri Megadim (Orach Chayim 444, Mishpetzot Zahhav 9) cites the Terumat HaDeshen who rules that even if a boy was born on Friday after Shabbat began, we still hold the Shalom Zachar that Friday evening. We don’t wait for the following Friday evening because the parents of the newborn are happy and celebrating the miracle of life at the Shalom Zachar. Let them, therefore, hold their celebration as close to the birth as possible. It makes no sense to wait.
The following would seem to corroborate this ruling: Tana D’vei Eliyahu Raba (26) notes that the juxtaposition of the fifth commandment (of the Ten Commandments) to the fourth commandment suggests some relationship between the two. The midrash explains that the fifth commandment is dependent upon the fourth, which is the mitzvah of keeping Shabbat, which commemorates the fact that Hashem ceased creating the world on that day. Had Hashem not rested on the seventh day, human beings would never have had the ability to create children; each successive generation would have been a creative act of G-d. Only because Hashem stopped creating were human beings granted the power of creation. As such, the mitzvah of honoring parents – the fifth of the Ten Commandments – is a direct result of the first Shabbat in world history.
Based on this rationale, it makes sense that parents of a newborn boy should hold the Shalom Zachar on the Shabbat closest to his birth. It would also explain why, in general, parents of baby boys hold a Shalom Zachor specifically on Shabbat – for they are thus symbolically paying tribute to Shabbat which is what provided human beings with the ability to create life..
In light of all the above, it makes perfect sense to hold a Simchat Bat on the first Shabbat after a girl is born. This celebration would serve as gratitude to Hashem, and would also link the miracle of birth to Shabbat. It may not be traditional to hold a Simchat Bat, but it certainly cannot be wrong to call family and friends together to thank G-d for the miracle of birth. Just the opposite. It is a form of kiddush Hashem.
About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.
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