Brit Milah / Baby Namings

The naming of a child is a profound moment, imprinting what will become a life-long legacy on a new member of the family. Naming is often a statement about heritage, history or hope. 

A strong Ashkenazic (Northern European) tradition is to honour the memory of a beloved person by naming for that person. However, some families select a name based on a season (for example, Esther at Purim, Aviva in spring), place or event. When choosing a name, there are many considerations, such as sound and spelling, to keep in mind. While there are many names that are popular in a given year, a classical name is always appropriate. The sacred literature and history of our people have a treasure trove of beautiful and meaningful names. Rather than differentiate between the English and Hebrew names, creating a dual identity, there is a value to selecting a name whose Hebrew and English forms are identical, or nearly so. Our rabbis will be very happy to aid you in selecting appropriate names that a Jew can wear with pride and dignity. 

On Naming a Baby Girl

The naming of a girl traditionally takes place at the Torah at the earliest opportunity after the birth any time the Torah is read -- Monday, Thursday, Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon. If the naming does not take place during the initial week, it should definitely be done during the first month. Please contact Lynn Levy at least two days in advance of the service with the date and place of birth, and full English and Hebrew names of parents and daughter. There is no charge for performing this mitzvah. Families wishing to sponsor the Kiddush or breakfast following the service should contact Florence Bendelac after confirming the date of the naming.

Some families also want a home-based ritual. We have prepared a Brit Habat (Daughter’s Covenant) service that is often organized in addition to the Torah naming.  

On Naming a Baby Boy

The boy’s name is given at the brit milah, the “Covenant of Circumcision”.  It is a mitzvah to perform the circumcision on the eighth day after birth, even if that day is a Shabbat or festival (there are some exceptions). The brit milah is a sign of the covenant which binds the child to the people of Israel, and through them to God. A mohel (ritual circumciser) is specially trained for this function. At Beth Tzedec we give approval to mohalim who are Shabbat observant and conduct the circumcision according to Jewish law and tradition. The mohel will make arrangements with you for the circumcision ceremony in your home or at the synagogue. The celebration following should be kosher. If you wish to hold the ceremony and celebration at Beth Tzedec, please contact our events coordinator, Florence Bendelac, as soon as possible following the birth.

The Ceremony of Pidyon Ha-Ben

The Torah mandates that every first-born son is to be dedicated to God as a recollection of the Exodus from Egypt when the first-born Hebrews were spared from the Tenth Plague. However, a substitution or redemption ceremony frees the boy from this status. This mitzvah only applies to the son of parents who are neither Kohen nor Levi, and when the baby is the mother’s first conception, and born by vaginal delivery. The boy is redeemed on the 31st day of birth (or following Shabbat if that is the 31st day), by giving a Kohen capable of performing the rites five silver dollar coins. Beth Tzedec has silver coins specifically minted for this purpose which member families are welcome to use. It is customary to make a kosher festive meal at the ceremony of redemption. To determine if a Pidyon Ha-Ben is required, please contact one of our Rabbis immediately after the brit milah.