Events for a Baby Boy
My wife and I are expecting our first child next month. Since we know it will be a boy, we are preparing to have a Bris. But we are wondering if there are other Jewish rituals we should know about.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
This is exciting news. We pray that your son (assuming the doctors didn’t make a gender mistake!) will be a great source of pride and joy to his family and the entire Jewish people.
Along with the birth of a son comes several customs, the most obvious being the Bris Milah. To this day, virtually all Jews, regardless of their level of religious observance, fulfill this mitzvah. As the Sages said: "Every mitzvah that the Jews accepted with joy, such as Bris Milah, will always be fulfilled with joy" (Talmud – Shabbat 130a).
So here’s what you need to know:
It is a common Ashkenazic custom to hold a Shalom Zachar on the first Friday night after the baby's birth, at the home of the newborn. Light refreshments are served, but not a full meal. The Shalom Zachar is held on Friday night because that is when people are more apt to be at home, and available to participate (Trumat HaDeshen 269).
Rabbi Paysach Krohn explains the reason for the Shalom Zachar: While a baby develops within the womb, an angel teaches him the entire Torah. Just before birth, the angel touches the child on his mouth causing him to forget all that he has learned (Talmud – Niddah 30b). The gathering in the home of the newborn is to console him for the Torah he has forgotten (Taz – YD 265:13). And since the baby is "in mourning" for the Torah he has lost, lentils or beans (and chick peas) are usually served, since these foods are customarily eaten by mourners (Zocher HaBris 3:6).
The night prior to the Bris, it is a beautiful custom for children come to the house of the newborn and recite the words of "Shema Yisrael" in his presence. We give the children sweets in order to encourage them to come. Furthermore, the night before the Bris, it is customary to learn Torah in the house of the infant.
The Zohar explains that before the Bris, impure spiritual forces try to harm the infant; therefore, children who are too young to have sinned come and recite Shema Yisrael, the prayer which has the power to bring one to loftier, more spiritual pursuits in life, and thus strengthen the newborn to have greater potential for spirituality.
And finally, under certain conditions, the baby boy will need a Pidyon HaBen. See more at: www.aish.com/jl/l/b/48964996.html