blessings were chosen from the Blessings for Various Occasions and the
Seven Wedding Blessings. We chose those blessings that had general and
particular personal meaning for us. We deliberately paralleled these
blessings in number and content with the wedding blessings, seeing the
birth of our child one of the fulfillments of our marriage, and because
of the fullness and sacral quality of the number seven in Jewish tradition
We said these seven blessings together at the Kiddush following
the naming of our daughter in shul.
are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, Creator of the Mystery
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, Creator of Everything
for your Glory.
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, Creator of Humanity.
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, who created human
beings in your image, after your likeness, and out of their very selves
you prepared for them a perpetual spiritual being. Praised are you,
Lord, Creator of humanity.
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, who has such as
these creatures in your world.
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos. Who remembers
of the Covenant and steadfastly faithful in your Covenant, keeping your
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, who has sustained
us in life and being and brought us to this very moment.
Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Lord of the Cosmos, Creator of the
fruit of the vine.
giving or taking on of a Hebrew name connotes the acquisition of being
and identity within Jewish language culture. When done amidst a quorum
of ten Jews, a congregation, it connoted the introduction and acceptance
of the new member and the celebration of the community in its enhanced
strength and vitality
[Both parents, together with the baby] had
paternal grandfather read the naming prayer
with the sheheyanu
following and to mark the occasion, members of the minyan, were
asked to read in Hebrew, in accompaniment with the English response
of the congregation, the verses of a specially selected Psalm. We comprised
a Hebrew letter acrostic spelling out Ariel's name from Psalm 119, which
itself is an eightfold acrostic
This was not an original idea
but its origin is unknown to use, except that we had heard of its use
by Prof. Petuchowski of Hebrew Union College.
Haben (redemption of the first-born son): After
the first-born of Egypt are slain in the tenth plague, "The Lord
spoke further to Moses, saying, 'Consecrate to Me every first-born...'"
(Exodus 13:1-2) In gratitude for being spared the fate of the
all the other first-born in Egypt, the Israelite first-born were
to become priests serving in the Tabernacle. However, after the
incident of the Golden Calf, the Levites are assigned to service
in the Tabernacle, in place of the firstborn, without nullifying
their dedication: "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'I hereby
take the Levites from among the Israelites in place of all the
first-born... For every first-born is Mine: at the time that I
smote every first-born in the land of Egypt, I consecrated every
first-born in Israel, ....'" (Numbers 3:11-13)
continue the practice of redeeming the firstborn son. To "require"
redemption, the baby must be his mother's firstborn, not have
been born by Caesarian section and neither parent be a Cohen or
Levite (descendants of the Priestly families). During this ceremony,
the father presents his son to a Cohen and then gives the Cohen
five ceremonial silver shekels (the Bank of Israel mints special
coins for this purpose), five silver dollars or the equivalent,
in order to redeem the child. Although the Cohen is entitled to
keep the money, he often donates it to tzedakah (charity)
and may even return it to the family, if they are in need.
HABAT (redemption of the firstborn
most important of all, in our efforts to celebrate the birth of our
daughter with the same equality and dignity with which the birth of
a son is traditionally celebrated, was our decision to have a pidyon
habat, a redemption of our firstborn daughter
. Many have objected
to the ceremony of pidyon haben because they no longer wish to
maintain the distinctions and privileges of office of the Priests, Levites,
and Israelites. While we subscribe to this point of view, to rest one
's opposition to the concept of pidyon redemption
upon the role of the priest in the ceremony
is sorely to misunderstand the nature of the religious ritual. The holiness
acquired by firstborn males "at the time that I (God) smote every
firstborn in the land of Egypt" (Num. 8:17) is the kedushah
of life, a supplemental and extraordinary gift of hesed (loving-kindness)
and redemption, bestowed by God when all other firstborn human life
was annihilated. The "twice-born" sanctity of the firstborn
is a result of joining kedushah from Nature with kedushah
from History so characteristic of our tradition.
wished to retain the awe and gratitude for a peter rehem (womb-opening)
child which is reflected in the traditional ceremony. We also wished
to emphasize, as does the traditional ceremony, the dedication of the
parents to rear their child for a Jewish life of "Torah, huppah
(marriage), and good deeds." However, we wished to shift the latter
emphasis to include the broad range of values, traditional Jewish and
nontraditional Jewish and humanitarian values, with which we hoped to
imbue our daughter. Thus we eliminated the role of the priests, and
the five shekelim
Instead we chose to donate a sum of eighteen
dollars (the numerical value of the Hebrew letters of the word hai,
life, is eighteen) in Ariel's name to three Jewish and three non-Jewish
organizations which are engaged in [causes that represent] values we
affirm and hope to convey to her. In each case we sent a letter explaining
the meaning and occasion of our contribution. (In almost all cases,
we received warm letters in response we
are saving these for her.) We followed the traditional text and format
of the ceremony; changing, adopting, adding so as to create what we
hoped would be a ritual that took our tradition forward, unabused but
innovative pidyon habat
(redemption of the firstborn daughter) ceremony.
Koltun, Elizabeth, The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives (New
York: Schocken, 1976), pp.22-24; 25-28. Originally published in
Response number 18; summer 1973. By permission of Myra Leifer,