When Audrey and David were about 2 months old, we had a Hebrew Baby Naming ceremony for them. We have gotten so many questions about it, I wanted to explain what that is.
In the Jewish tradition, a boy has a bris (circumcision) at 8 days old to signify his covenant with G-d. I found this great article about What to Expect at a Bris, in case you are invited to one or want to know more about this custom. During the bris “ceremony,” the boy will also be bestowed his Hebrew name (which is often similar to his English name). In the Reform Judaism movement, communities wanted to have something special for the girls as well, so Hebrew Baby Naming ceremonies were started.
Because we were having twins and we didn’t know when they would be arriving (and with the potential for Day 8 to be right around Thanksgiving, Chanukkah, or Christmas), Tim and I opted to have David’s circumcision to occur at the hospital (with our rabbi’s blessing to do this). We asked them to bring David in to us before they did it so that we could say a blessing over him (given to us by our rabbi). It was such a special moment for our new family. We had my nurse in the room at the time with some other student nurses. They wheeled David in (Audrey was still in the nursery with the pediatrician), and Tim and I were able to say our blessing over him in a nice calm, quiet atmosphere. The nurses had stopped their work and just watched us. As they wheeled David back out for his big moment, our nurse commented about how beautiful a moment that was. She explained that she had never seen anyone do that, but she wished that all couples would do something to signify that moment. A circumcision is a big deal, and it is nice to treat it as such.
Choosing a Religion:
Despite the fact that we did the circumcision at the hospital, we still wanted to do something to signify the entry of David and Audrey into the Jewish faith. We had had many long, thorough, detailed talks about how to raise our children. I am Jewish, and Tim is Presbyterian, so we had a decision to make. Thankfully, there are so many more families like us now than when I was going through Sunday School and Hebrew School. Our synagogue actually has a huge population of “modern Jewish families,” where one parent is Jewish and the other is (usually) Christian. I felt very strongly that I wanted my children raised to be Jewish. Our religion is becoming less and less populated as more and more Jewish people are marrying outside of the faith (as I did). They are choosing to raise their children in the Christian faith or without a faith at all. My religion just means too much to me to do that. Plus, a big part of a Jewish child’s upbringing is their learning the culture, Hebrew language, and customs that you can’t just pick up when you are older and choose to be Jewish. Without this background and exposure, they simply will not have it.
I have an amazing, giving husband, and he understood my commitment to my beliefs. He agreed that we could raise our children Jewish. We agreed, however, that the Christian faith and the ideals taught will always play an important part of all of our lives. Audrey and David’s dad IS Christian, and we WILL celebrate Christmas and Easter with him. We will go to church with Daddy when he goes (just as he comes to synagogue with us). As our rabbi explained, it’s like going to a friend’s birthday party. It isn’t YOUR birthday, but you go to celebrate with your friend. We will do that with our children and Christianity. Then, when they are old enough, if they choose to practice Christianity instead, that will be their choice.
The Baby Naming:
We always get questions about what a baby naming is. As I said earlier, it is when the baby gets their Hebrew name. Their Hebrew name usually is similar to their English name. My first name is Dory, and my Hebrew name is Devorah. I don’t have a middle Hebrew name (we can have either one or two names). A baby naming is a lot like a christening or a baptism. It can be done either at the family’s home or their synagogue. We chose to have a more informal ceremony at our home. It was so beautiful and special, filled with so much love and support for our new family. What a special Sunday afternoon it was! Here are some pictures from a dear friend, Debbie Silbert:
If you are still confused about what a baby naming is, here is the outline of our ceremony:
1. Candle-lighting Ceremony
2. Grandparents speaking about wishes for their grandchildren
Our G-d and G-d of all generations, we four grandparents are grateful for new beginnings, for the bond of new life that links one generation to another. Thankful for the blessings of family, for the love and care that brings meaning and happiness to our lives, we rejoice with our children at the birth of their son and daughter, our grandchildren. May they grow together as a family in health and in strength, in harmony, wisdom, and love, their home filled with words of Torah and acts of kindness.
May we be enabled to share in the joy of seeing these children grow into adulthood, a blessing to their family, their people, and all humanity. With all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our might, we thank You, G-d, for the gift of these wonderful children. We thank You for a healthy pregnancy, a safe delivery, and a speedy recovery.
With all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our might, we pray for the continued health of these babies. We pray for them to be strong in mind and body, to grow steadily and sturdily in a home filled with joy. We pray for them to each become a person who greets the world with passion, courage, humility, humor, and patience.
With all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our might, we pray for G-d to watch over our family. We pray for their parents’ ability to love and nurture these young lives, to provide for them and to educate them, to be understanding and to allow freedom to grow.
3. “What I Wish for My Children I wish for All Our Children” read by our siblings (adapted from Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)
I wish for you to be a person of character: strong but not tough, gentle but not weak.
I wish for you to be righteous but not self-righteous, honest but not unforgiving.
Wherever you journey, may your steps be firm and may you walk in just paths and not be afraid.
Whenever you speak, may your words be words of wisdom and friendship.
May your hands build and your heart preserve what is good and beautiful in our world.
May the voices of the generations of our people move through you and may the G-d of our ancestors be your G-d as well.
May you know that there is a people, a rich heritage, to which you belong and from that sacred place you are connected to all who dwell on the earth.
May the stories of our people be upon your heart and may the music of the Torah resound in your soul.
4. Parents reading Genesis 17 reading about the covenant with G-d
We are ready to perform the act of entering our son and daughter into the covenant. As G-d promised our ancestors: “I will establish my covenant with you and your children as an everlasting covenant throughout the generations, that I will be your G-d, and you will be My people.”
5. All family and friends reading Deuteronomy 29
You stand assembled today, all of you, before the Eternal your G-d, to enter into the covenant which I, the Eternal, make with you this day. I make this covenant not only with you who stand here with us today, but also with those of subsequent generations who have not yet been born.
6. Parents saying a blessing about the commandment and bringing our children into the covenant of the people of Israel
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu l’hachnisah bivreeto shel am Yisrael.
Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctified us with commandments and commanded us to bring our children into the covenant of the people of Israel.
7. Blessing over the wine
8. Shehecheyanu blessing (said whenever something new happens)
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this day.
9. Bestowing of the name of David: David Alon
10. Bestowing of the name of Audrey: Audy Oholivah
11. Explanation of the names and why the parents chose them
12. Parents discussing that we want to be worthy of the gift of being parents.
To be wise in answering questions
To be patient when patience is not easy
To be compassionate when compassion is elusive
To be understanding when our minds are tempted to close
To provide all that is needed
To need only what is provided
To set worthy examples of family, Judaism, and humanity.
13. Rabbi blessing Audrey and David
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