For the full text of the article from which this ceremony is taken, click here.
… Although we’ve seen that blood has loosely been introduced as a component of ceremonies welcoming girls, it has not played a central role in any of them. Let us explore a ceremony where lochia, referred to in the TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. as d’mei taharah [ed.: purifying blood], is the core of a Simchat BritLit. Covenant. Judaism is defined by the covenant - the contract between the Jewish people and God. God promises to make us abundant and to give us the land of Israel; we promise to obey God's commandments. This covenant begins with Abraham and is reiterated throughout the Torah. A brit milah, literally a covenant of circumcision, is often simply called a brit or bris..
Because Brit MilahLit. Covenant of circumcision. As a sign of the covenant, God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his descendants. An infant boy is circumcised on the eighth day of his life, often at home or in synagogue. A festive meal follows. works so well as a ceremony at so many levels, paralleling the ritual seems both helpful and powerful. Because a mother’s lochia changes from tamei [ed.: impure] to d’mei taharah on the 8th day when a boy is circumcised and on the 15th day when a girl is born (Leviticus 12:3-5), it seems fitting that a Simchat Brit would take place 15 days after the birth of a girl.
Although arguments can be made to the contrary, it seems appropriate that Abraham’s receipt of the brit continue to be celebrated with a ceremony, Brit Milah, where men bring baby men into the covenant, into the culture of Jewish men. A Simchat Brit should likewise be a ritual of women bringing baby women into the covenant that SarahThe first matriarch, wife of Abraham, and mother of Isaac, whom she birthed at the age of 90. Sarah, in Rabbinic tradition, is considered holy, beautiful, and hospitable. Many prayers, particularly the Amidah (the central silent prayer), refer to God as Magen Avraham – protector of Abraham. Many Jews now add: pokehd or ezrat Sarah – guardian or helper of Sarah. received, into the culture of Jewish women. The text spoken, the choice of actors in the ritual and their placement on the ‘stage,’ and the ritual objects and substances used should all reflect or embody the transmission of the legacy of Jewish women to the newest member of our tribe. Men, of course, should be present as witnesses and the father should have a role of honor.
Below is a proposed service for a Simchat Brit, including new text, ritual objects, and a central role for the purifying blood of the mother in sealing the transmission of peoplehood. If the child is adopted, and there is no birth mother present, a pinprick from either or both parents’ fingers can provide the parental blood. The ‘stage directions’ for the ritual have the birth mother using her lochia in the key role, but modifications can and should be made when blood is used from a pinprick and/or for different family configurations, including single parents, two mothers, two fathers, etc. The Brit Milah ceremony used as a model here is the one found in the ArtScroll SiddurLit. Order of prayers. The prayer book..
The ceremony takes place 15 days after the birth. If that day is a Friday, it is recommended that it be done well before ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends. begins. If it falls on a Saturday, it is recommended that it be done after HavdalahLit. Separation A ceremony performed on Saturday night to mark the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the week, using wine, a braided candle, and sweet-smelling spices. if the parents want to start with candle lighting. It can be done during Shabbat without the candles.
The mother lights two Shabbat candles. The parents choose a kavvanah (intention) for the candle-lighting that they wish to focus on and share with participants:
- Welcoming the ShekhinahThe feminine name of God, expounded upon in the rabbinic era and then by the Kabbalists in extensive literature on the feminine attributes of the divine. into their home
- Welcoming an additional soul into the people IsraelLit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel.
- Separation of the soul of the mother and soul of the daughter that took place at birth
- Covenant of Shabbat which, like blood, is associated with the concepts of both brit and time.
All declare when the child is brought in:
Brukhah Ha-Ba’ah Blessed is the one who arrives!
Two seats are prepared, one for the godmother to hold the girl and one for MiryamMiriam is the sister of Moses and Aaron. As Moses' and Aaron's sister she, according to midrash, prophesies Moses' role and helps secure it by watching over the young baby, seeing to it that Pharaoh's daughter takes him and that the baby is returned to his mother for nursing. During the Israelites' trek through the desert, a magical well given on her behalf travels with the Israelites, providing water, healing, and sustenance.. Place baby on Miryam’s chair.
The parent who is not the birth mother, or if there is no birth mother present, the parent who chooses this role says:
Zeh ha-kisei shel Miryam ha-nevi’ah, z’khurah la’tov. Shiru l’Adonai ki ga’oh ga’ah.
This is the chair for Miryam the prophetess, who is remembered for good. Sing to HaShemLit. The Name, referring to the ineffable name of God; used as a substitute for any of the more sacred names of God when not speaking in prayer. Particularly used in conversation., who has triumphed gloriously.
Ashirah l’YahA name for God, as in "halleluyah" – praise God. Some people prefer this name for God as a non-gendered option. b’hayyai. I will sing to God with my life (Chorus of Shefa Gold melody).
The godmother holds the child and the mother comes in front of the child, as a mid-wife would sit in front of a birthing mother.
We have been ready and willing to perform the positive commandment and blessing of birthing leaders of great nations since the moment you were conceived/hoped for.
Birth Mother or Chosen Parent:
Amar Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu al Sarah: uveirakhti’ha v’haitah l’goyim malkhei amim mimenah yihyu.
The Kadosh Barukh Hu said about Sarah: “I will bless her so that she shall give rise to nations; rulers of peoples shall issue forth from her.”
Today I welcome you into my lineage, a noble lineage, begun by Sarah, who it is said was a great prophet; continued by Rivkah who had the capacity to hear and then to follow the will of HaShemLit. The Name, referring to the ineffable name of God; used as a substitute for any of the more sacred names of God when not speaking in prayer. Particularly used in conversation. in regards to her children and our lineage; carried on by RachelLavan's younger daughter and Jacob's beloved wife second wife (after he is initially tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah). Rachel grieves throughout her life that she is barren while Leah is so fertile. Ultimately, Rachel gives birth to Joseph and dies in childbirth with Benjamin. Rachel is remembered as compassionate (she is said to still weep for her children), and infertile women often invoke Rachel as a kind of intercessor and visit her tomb on the road to Bethlehem. and LeahThe third of the Jewish matriarchs, Lead is the eldest of Lavan's daughters and one of the wives of Jacob. She is the daughter whom Lavan tricks Jacob into marrying instead of his younger daughter Rachel, whom Jacob has requested to marry. Leah is mother to six of the the twelve tribes and to one daughter, Dinah., who learned how to make the most of a difficult situation; taken on by Miryam who taught us to sing and dance and bring our joy with us through dangerous and difficult birthings; and expanded by the daughters of Zelophehad who brought women’s power through property into our collective consciousness and invited HaShem to change the rules—proving that people CAN challenge and thereby change God’s law. Today we also invoke the faithful RuthAn important female biblical character with her own book. The Book of Ruth, read on Shavuot, tells the story of Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and their return to Israel. Ruth’s story is often read as the first story of conversion. Ruth is the grandmother of King David., who showed us that love and conviction and right action are attributes of all God’s people, and who helped us appreciate the remarkable gift we receive when those outside our birth family choose to join us.
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hakhnisah b’vrit shel AvrahamAbraham is the first patriarch and the father of the Jewish people. He is the husband of Sarah and the father of Isaac and Ishmael. God's covenant - that we will be a great people and inherit the land of Israel - begins with Abraham and is marked by his circumcision, the first in Jewish history. His Hebrew name is Avraham. v’Sarah.
Blessed are you, Great Mystery, our God, Imaginer of the World, who sanctified us with commandments and willed us to bring her into the covenant of AbrahamAbraham is the first patriarch and the father of the Jewish people. He is the husband of Sarah and the father of Isaac and Ishmael. God's covenant - that we will be a great people and inherit the land of Israel - begins with Abraham and is marked by his circumcision, the first in Jewish history. His Hebrew name is Avraham. and Sarah.
Mother takes lochia blood which has been placed on gauze. (A pinprick from either or both parent’s fingers can also provide the parental blood.) Mother dabs her daughter between the eyes with the blood, saying:
May you have vision like Sarah and may your vision/hazon have the power to transform, as does this blood.
All: Kein yehi ratzonLit. "May it be Your Will ..." The opening of many petitionary prayers.
Mother dabs blood on the right ear of the child and says:
May you listen carefully so that you hear HaShem’s will, like Rivkah did, and may your connection to Divine intention/ratzon transform that which is in need of alignment with the Holy One of Blessing as does this blood.
All: Kein yehi ratzon
Mother dabs blood on the heart and says:
May you find the balance to live in your heart though life brings you circumstancesthat are not to your liking, as did Rachel and Leah, and may your heartbalance/tiferet transform those difficulties into peaceful creativity as does this blood.
All: Kein yehi ratzon
Mother dabs blood on feet and says:
May you dance with joy on the shores of your liberation, and may your dance transform nations, as does this blood.
All: Kein yehi ratzon
Mother dabs blood on the right thumb and says:
May you have the strength to fight for what is right and fair, like the daughters of Zelophehad, and may your advocacy transform the world as does this blood.
All: Kein yehi ratzon
Mother draws blood with a pinprick from daughter’s left thumb and dabs it with clean gauze, then folds the blood together with her own blood (lochia if the birth mother, a pinprick if not) and, moving aside any clothing, dabs it directly on her heart, on the heart of the other parent, on the heart of any siblings, and on the belly of the baby, and says:
May you know what it means to give of yourself in just the right amount, to welcome the stranger, to feed the poor, to nurture those you love, and mingle your life force with the family you choose as gracefully and faithfully as did Ruth, and may your blood transform, as does mine.
All: Kein yehi ratzon
K’shem she-nikhnasah la-brit, kein tikaneis l’Torah ul’huppahMarriage canopy symbolizing the couple's new home. ul’maasim tovimLit. Good deeds. The traditional prayer for a newborn infant at his or her brit milah or baby naming concludes, "May s/he grow to Torah, to Chuppah, and to ma'asim tovim.".
Just as she has entered the covenant, so may she enter into the Torah, huppah, and good deeds.
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, borei pri ha-gafen.
Blessed are you, Great Mystery, our God, Imaginer of the World, who brings forth the fruit of the vine.
One parent drinks the wine, passes it to the other parent to drink, who then dips a finger in the wine and puts it on the baby’s lips.
Parents give a personal (unscripted) blessing to the daughter.
Parents and rabbi/officiant recite the following, in English and/or in Hebrew. [Note: Change the traditional wording if the child is adopted or if there is a single parent or two fathers or two mothers.]
Our God and God of our forefathers and foremothers, preserve this child for her parents, and may her name be called in Israel _______________ (baby’s Hebrew name) daughter of _____________ (parents’ names). May her father rejoice in the issue of his loins and her mother exult in the fruit of her womb, as it is written, “May your father and mother rejoice and may she who gave birth to you exult.” And it is said, “Then I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said to you, ‘In your blood, live!’ And I said to you, ‘In your blood live!’” and it is said: God remembered the covenant forever; the word of God’s command for a thousand generations — that God made with Abraham and with Sarah and their son IsaacAbraham and Sarah's much-longed-for son and the second Jewish patriarch. Isaac is nearly sacrificed by his father at God's command (Genesis 22). He is married to Rebecca and is the father of Esau and Jacob. His Hebrew name is Yitzchak.. Then he established it with JacobLit. heel Jacob is the third patriarch, son of Isaac and Rebecca, and father to the twelve tribes of Israel. More than any of the other patriarchs, Jacob wrestles with God and evolves from a deceitful, deal-making young man to a mature, faithful partner to God. His Hebrew name is Yaakov. and Rachel and Leah as a statute for Israel, an everlasting statute. Give thanks to HaShem, for God is good, God’s kindness endures forever!
Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, kayeim et ha-yaldah ha-zot l’aviah ul’imah, v’yikarei sh’mah b’Yisrael ________________ (baby’s Hebrew name) bat ____________ (parents’ names). Yismakh ha-av b’yotzei halatzav, v’tageil imah b’pri vitnah. Kakatuv: Yismakh avikha v’imekha v’tageil yolad’tekha. V’ne’emar: Va-e’evor alayikh va-ereikh mitbosseset b’damayikh va-omar lakh b’damayikh hayyay, va-omar lakh b’damayikh hayyay! V’ne’emar: zakhar l’olam brito, davar tzivah l’eleph dor, Brito asher karat im Avraham v’Sarah u’b’nam Yitzkhak, va-ya’amideihu l’Yaakov l’hok, l’Yisrael v’Rachel v’Leah brit olam. Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki l’olam hasdo. Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki l’olam hasdo.
Master of the Universe, may it be Your will that she be worthy, favored, and acceptable before You and may You in your abundant mercy send through Your holy angels a holy and pure soul to _________________ (baby’s Hebrew name).
Ribono shel olamLit. Master of the Universe A term sometimes used in the Jewish liturgy to refer to God., y’hi ratzon milfanekha she-t’hei hashuvah, um’rootzah, um’kooblah l’fanekha, v’atah b’rachamekha ha-rabbim, sh’lakh al y’dei malakhekha ha-kedoshim neshamahSoul kedoshah ut’horah l’______________ (baby’s Hebrew name).
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, shehekheyanu, v’higianu, v’kiymanu, la-zman ha-zeh.
For all who seek ways to live a life immersed in the vast beauty of our tradition as we fully honor both women and men, may this paper and this ritual provide an opening for experiencing the full power and possibility of our covenant and of a spiritually and ritually engaged path.