The Simkhat Bat of Elana Shira

Elana Shira
Sunday, August 20, 2006
26 Av, 5766

1. Baby’s entrance

Elana Shira is brought in by her grandfathers, Dr. Stanley Small and Dr. Yitzchok Zlochower.

Devorah: We greet Elana Shira with the words ברוכה הבאה; Beruha HaBaa.

Yehoshua holds Elana Shira as Yehoshua and Samantha join Devorah on the bima.

Devorah: Elana Shira is wrapped in the tallit that was given to Samantha by Yehoshua at their wedding. The numerical value of ציצית, tzitzit, the fringes of the tallit is 600. Our Sages tell us that the 600 symbolized by the ציצית along with the 8 strands and 5 knots on each corner equal 613, the traditional number of mitzvoth or commandments. By wearing her mother’s tallit, Elana Shira is wrapped in the 613 commandments, the covenantal bond between God and the Jewish people.


2. Candle lighting


Devorah: Samantha and Yehoshua now light two candles to welcome Elana Shira officially and in the presence of the community into their home.

Samantha lights one candle. Yehoshua and Samantha together light a second candle from the first candle.

Samantha and Yehoshua: When one candle lights another, its light is not diminished, rather, the light in the world increases. In this way, little girl, you have already added your light to the light of our family. May you continue to bless us and all those you touch with your light and your life.

Devorah: The book of Proverbs, Mishle, tells us כי נר מצוה ותורה אור For the commandments are a candle and Torah is light. As the tallit symbolizes the commandments, the light of the candles stands for the illumination of Torah study, the sacred right and obligation of all Jews.

Yehoshua and Samantha: We stand in awe before the miracle of birth, the mystery and majesty of life, our own fragility and the power of God. We accept the responsibility of raising our daughter to maturity. We are overcome with a deep sense of love, joy and happiness. We are grateful to you, God, for all that has transpired and all that is yet to unfold.

3. שיר השירים – Song of Songs

Devorah: Jewish girls have been welcomed into their families and communities with words of Torah since early modern times. Sefardic and Italian Jews in the 17th century had a ceremony called a זבד הבת, zeved ha’bat, in which they officially entered their daughters into the Jewish community. As the baby girl was brought in she was greeted by verses from the Song of Songs, King Solomon’s beautiful love poem to God. Samantha sister, Gaby will recite the verses of שיר השירים from the זבד הבת.



יוֹנָתִי בְּחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע

Yonati bi’khagvey ha’selah

O, my dove in the rocky clefts
In the covert of terrace high
Let me see thy countenance
Let me hear thy voice
For sweet is thy voice
And thy countenance comely

4. נטילת ידים Washing of the Hands

Devorah: As light is a central motif in Judaism so is water. Moshe is drawn from water, the Israelites cross the Red Sea in their exodus from Egypt but water has special significance for Biblical women. Rivka, our mother Rebecca enters the family of Abraham and when she draws water for Abraham’s servant and his caravan of camels; her patient filling and refilling of the ewer demonstrating her compassion for both human an animal. Miriam watches baby Moshe in the water and later on, the midrash tells us, the Israelites in the desert get their water from a rock in Miriam’s merit. And of course, Miriam leads the women in song and dance at the Red Sea after the Israelites’ miraculous salvation.

We are reminded of the centrality of water to Jewish life and history as we perform the ritual act of hand washing, נטילת ידים netillat yadayim, before eating bread and when we greet the day. As Yehoshua and Samantha usher their daughter into their family, into the Jewish community and into the line of Jewish women they wash her hands.

Yehoshua holds Elana Shira as Samantha washes the hands. Both recite the blessing.

Samantha and Yehoshua:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם


Barukh Atah Ado-n-ay Elo-hey-nu Melekh ha’olam asher kidishanu bi’mitzvotav vi’tzivanu al netillat yadayim.

Blessed are You, Ado-n-ai our God who has sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us on the washing of the hands.

Samantha holds Elana Shira as both say:

We have washed your hands with the Water of Life with which You, God, have blessed heaven and earth.

You are now a daughter of the Covenant of the People Israel. You are a daughter of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, of Miriam, Esther and Avigayil. You are a daughter of your great-grandmothers, Elsie, Gertrude, Sarah and Miriam. You are a daughter of your grandmothers, Amy and Marcia. You are a daughter of your wise, beautiful and strong mother, Sara Bracha. You are a daughter of all the strong, gentle and wise women of Israel.

5. קריאת שם Naming the Baby

Devorah: I would like to call up the two grandmothers, Amy Small and Marcia Zlochower, to hold the baby for the naming ceremony.

As the grandmothers ascend the bima and receive the baby, Gaby recites the following verse.


   מִי זֹאת הֲנִשְׁקְפָה כְּמוֹ שַׁחַר 

Mi zot ha’nishkafa kemo shakhar

Who is she who shines through the dawn, beautiful as the moon, radiant as the sun?


מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ שָׁרָה שָׂרָה וְרִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה וּמָרִים הַנְּבִיאָה וְאַבִיגָיִל וְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה בַּת אֲבִיחַיִל. הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת הַיַּלְדָה הַנְּעִימָה הַזֹּאת וְנִקְרָא שֶׁמַּה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָנָה שִׁירָה בַּת הָרָב יְהוֹשֻׁעַ זנויל ו וְשָׂרָה בְּרָכָה 
   בְּמַזַּל טוֹב וּבִשְׁעַת בְּרָכָה וִיגַדְּלָהּ לְתוֹרָה וּלְחֻפָּה וּלְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים וְנֹאמַר אַמֵּן 

Mi she’berakh Sarah, Rivka, Rachel v’Leah, u’Miriam ha’Nevia v’Avigayil, v’Esther ha’Malka bat Avikhayil. Hu yivarekh et ha’yalda ha’neima ha’zot vi’nikra shemah bi’Yisrael: Elana Shira bat ha’Rav Yehoshua Zanvil vi’Sara Bracha
B’mazel tov uvi’shaat brakha vi’yigadlah l’Torah ul’huppa ul’maasim tovim v’nomar Amen.

May the One who blessed our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, Miriam the Prophet, Avigail and Esther the Queen,
May God bless this beautiful girl called Elana Shira
daughter of Rav Yehoshua Zanvil and Sarah Bracha.
May they raise her for Torah, the huppa and good deeds and let us say Amen.

Elana Shira is named after her parents’ maternal grandmothers, Elsie and Sarah. Their daughters, Elana’s grandmothers, will share a few memories.

Amy and Marcia speak.

Devorah: Yehoshua and Samatha have chosen the name Elana Shira for their daughter. As we have heard Elana Shira is named for two great-grandmothers, Elsie and Sarah. Samantha and Yehoshua have chosen to memorialize their maternal grandmothers with two names Elana and Shira.

Elana is a tree, an oak tree, my brother tells me. Trees are a significant symbol in Judaism. Every time we return the Torah to the Aron we say עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה etz hayim hi la’mahazikim bah, Torah is a living tree to those who uphold her.

Shira is a song, a poem, a beautiful melody. The Bible is full of songs of women, the song of Miriam, the song of Devorah and the song of Chana. Biblical songs have marked both national triumphs and personal glories. In fact, Torah itself is called a shira.

In combining these two names, Yehoshua and Samantha, you give Elana Shira a message of strength combined with beauty, of the significance of a tree that stands for many years along with the importance of a melody that remains in the air but a moment. Both are powerful expressions of what Jewish living can be. Jewish observance and ritual glorify the sacred moment, special occasions like today and they also sanctify each and every day. May Elana Shira grow strong, steadfast in her opinions and beliefs, with a lightness of spirit, an ease and comfort, knowing her place in the Jewish community.

The Talmud in Taanit 5b-6a relates the following story:

Rav Nahman and Rabbi Yitzhak were eating together. When the time came for them to part, Rav Nahman entreated Rabbi Yitzhak, “Bless me.” Said Rabbi Yitzhak, “I will tell you a parable. To what may this be compared? To one who was journeying in the desert, hungry, weary and thirsty and came upon a tree the fruits of which were sweet, its shade pleasant, and a stream of water flowing beneath it. The wayfarer ate of its fruits, drank of the water, and rested under its shade. When he was about to continue his journey, he said: אילן אילן -Elan, Elan,Tree, O Tree, with what shall I bless thee? Shall I say to you, ‘May your fruits be sweet’? They are sweet already. That your shade be pleasant? It is already pleasant. That a stream of water may flow beneath you? A stream of water flows already beneath you. So with this I bless you, “May it be God’s will that all the shoots taken from you be like you.”

“So also with you”, said Rabbi Yitzhak to Rav Nahman, “with what shall I bless you? With Torah? You already possess it. With riches? You have riches already. With children? You have children already. May it be God’s will that your offspring be like you.”

Yehoshua and Samantha how shall we bless you? You possess so much, a love for each other, a commitment to caring for humanity, and a passion for Jewish life. In the words of Rabbi Yitzhak, may Elana Shira and Sammy, Gavriel Shmuel, grow to be like you, compassionate and caring, intelligent and inquiring, and committed to a Judaism that speaks to the soul as well as the mind.

6. Blessing over wine

The grandfathers now ascend the bima. A cup of wine is handed to Yehoshua and Samantha who recite the blessing.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

Barukh ata Ado-n-ay Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam boreh peri hagafen.

Twice before we drank from this cup in times of joy, at our wedding, and upon welcoming our son, Gavriel Shmuel, into the covenant. We now drink again, celebrating the joy of another new life.



וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל פַּלְגֵי מַיִם אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא יִבּוֹל וְכָל אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ


Vi’haya ki’eitz shatul al palgey mayim asher piryo yiten bi’ito v’alayhu lo yibol v’khol asher yaaseh yatzliakh.

Elana Shira, may you grow to be like the tree by the riverside with strong roots who bears fruits of blessings, whose strength never wanes. May you find success in all you do.

שִׁירוּ לה’ שִׁיר חָדָשׁ שִׁירוּ לה’ כָּל הָאָרֶץ
Shiru la’Ado-n-ay shir hadash shiru la’Ado-n-ay kol ha’aretz.

May you sing a new song to God, a song that is yours. May you sing your song with joy and faith. May you bring blessings to your parents, to your family, to the world with your beautiful song.


May the Shechina, the Loving Presence of God, spread Her wings over you and protect you. May you know great joy and fulfillment in your life. May you walk with your people, Israel, in pride, and may you understand that to be a Jew is a source of joy and meaning, and an important responsibility.

May you go from strength to strength, yet always be able to accept your own weaknesses and those of others. May you judge yourself and others with compassion.

May your ears be filled with music of every imaginable kind, and may the rhythm be of your own making, Allow yourself to march at your own pace and dance to your own beat.

May you live in a world blessed with peace and harmony, and may your future be as bright and as hopeful as the world’s first rainbow.
And let us say Amen. 

7. ברכת הטוב והמטיב ha’Tov viha’Meitiv

Devorah: There are moments in life that warrant a special blessing. The birth of a child is certainly one of them. The Mishnah, Berakhot 9:1 tells us that for good tidings we say הטוב והמטיב, blessing God who is good and causes good.

We now recite this blessing for the gift of a daughter.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַטּוֹב וְהַמֵיטִיב


Barukh ata Ado-n-ay Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam ha’tov v’ha’meytiv.

8. ברכת הורים the parents’ blessing

Devorah: Ever since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, parents have blessed their children. Perhaps this is one way, we as parents, let our children know how blessed we are by their presence in our life. As we mark the end of this ceremony welcoming Elana Shira into the Jewish community and as we look forward to sharing in all her semakhot, Samantha and Yehoshua bestow their blessings upon their daughter.

  יְשִׂמֵךְ אֱלֹהִים כְּשָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה
  יְבָרֵךְ אֲדֹנָי וִישַׁמְּרֵך
יָאֵר אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלָיִךְ וִחֻנַיִךְ
  יִשָּׂא אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלָיִךְ וַיָּשֶׂם לָךְ שָׁלוֹם
Yisimekh Elohim k’imoteynu Sara, Rivka, Rachel v’Leah.

Yivarekhikha Ado-n-ay v’yishmirekha. Yaer Ado-n-ay panav eilekha vi’khuneka. Yisa Ado-n-ay panav eileikha vi’yasem likha shalom.

Mazel tov!!


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