A Weaning Ceremony (for a girl or boy)

Background information

As the central ritual of this ceremony, the mother tosses a sweet-smelling flower into a body of running water. Tossing the flower in the water was, for me, my final breaking with nursing. It was as if I tossed my milk into the stream, and then I could move on.

Within the ceremony, I suggest a place where a husband or partner may be formally included. For myself, I chose to perform the ceremony with two women friends, one of whom was marking the weaning of her own child. We invited neither husbands nor children. We performed the ceremony on the bridge where, on Rosh Hashanah, we perform tashlich, and afterwards we celebrated with apricots and cupcakes.

I wrote the ceremony in Hebrew, but I provide translations and I think it works well in either language. This version contains only transliterations. For the full Hebrew text, please download the PDF version.

The ceremony

A poem (for the mother to recite):

[Child’s name], my sweet boy/my sweet girl,
My breasts are filled with milk
And several days yet they will be full.
I will carry the weight that you will not drink.

My sweet child,
My heart is filled with love
And it will always be full.
I will carry the weight.
You will not see it
But from it you will grow.


 שֶׁלִּי יֶלֶד מָתוֹק שֶׁלִּי שֵׁדַי מְלֵאִים חָלָב וְעוֹד כַּמָּה יָמִים יִהְיוּ מְלֵאִים אֲנִי אַחְזִיק אֶתְ הַכְּבֵדוּת שֶׁאַתָּה לֹא תִּשְׁתֶּה יֶלֶד שֶׁלִּי לִבִּי מָלֵא אָהֲבָה וּלְעוֹלָם יִהְיֶה___
מָלֵא אָנִי אַחְזִיק אֶתְ הַכְּבֵדוּת אַתָּה לֹא תַּכִּיר אוֹתָהּ אַךְ מִמֶּנָּה תִּגְדָּל

For a boy:

[Ploni] sheli, yeled matok sheli
Shadai m’layim khalav
v’od kamah yamim y’hiyu m’layim
Ani akhzik et hakhvaydut
she’atah lo tishteh

yeled sheli,
libi malay ahavah
ul’olam y’hiyeh malay
ani akhzik et hakhvaydut
atah lo takir otah
akh mimenah tigdal

For a girl:

שֶׁלִּי יַלְדָּה מְתוּקָה שֶׁלִּי שֵׁדַי מְלֵאִים חָלָב וְעוֹד כַּמָּה יָמִים יִהְיוּ מְלֵאִים אֲנִי אַחְזִיק אֶתְ הַכְּבֵדוּת שֶׁאַתְּ לֹא תִּשְׁתִּי יַלְדָּה שֶׁלִּי לִבִּי מָלֵא אָהֲבָה וּלְעוֹלָם יִהְיֶה מָלֵא אָנִי אַחְזִיק אֶתְ הַכְּבֵדוּת אַתְּ לֹא תַּכִּירִי אוֹתָהּ אַךְ מִמֶּנָּה תִּגְדְּלִי

[plonit] sheli, yaldah m’tukah sheli
Shadai m’layim khalav
v’od kamah yamim y’hiyu m’layim
Ani akhzik et hakhvaydut
she’at lo tishti

yaldah sheli,
libi malay ahavah
ul’olam y’hiyeh malay
ani akhzik et hakhvaydut
at lo takiri otah
akh mimenah tigd’li

A verse (for the mother’s partner or a friend to recite) Isaiah 66:13:

As a man’s mother comforts him, so God will comfort you and in Jerusalem you will be comforted.

כְּאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר אִמּוֹ תְּנַחֲמֶנּוּ–כֵּן אָנֹכִי אֲנַחֶמְכֶם, וּבִירוּשָׁלִַם תְּנֻחָמוּ

K’ish asher imo t’nakhamenu kayn anokhi anakhemkhem uviyrushalayim t’nukhamu

The mother recites the traditional blessing for sweet-smelling plants:

Blessed are You, our God, Sovereign of the world, who creates fragrant plants.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא מִינֵי בְשָׂמִים

Barukh Atah Adona-i E-lohaynu Melekh ha’olam, Boray isvay b’samim.

After reciting the blessing, the mother smells a flower, then tosses the flower into a body of running water. She or a friend recites the following prayers:

Blessed are You, God, well spring of life. You created the land and the seas. In ancient times You fashioned man, and you fashioned Eve, mother of all life. You commanded: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land. Blessed are You, Creator of Adam and Eve.

  בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ עֵין הַחַיִּים אַתְּ בָּרָאת אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְאֶת הַיַּמִּים. אַתְּ יָצַרְתְּ אֶת הָאָדָם וְאֶת חָוָה אֵם כֹּל חַי וְצִוִּית פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ. בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יוֹצֶרֶת אָדָם וְחָוָה 

Brukhah at Y-ah, ayn hakhayim. At barat et ha’aretz v’et hayamim. At ya’tsart et ha’adam v’et Khavah aym kol khai, v’tsivit p’ru urvu umilu et ha’aretz. Bruchah at, yotseret Adam v’Khavah.

You protect the fetus in the womb, and You bring him out amidst birth blood and breathe in his nostrils the soul of life. You protect the newborn from harm and disease. You nurture her from her mother’s milk, and You protect the mother and the father. Blessed are You, God, who protects the newborn and her parents.

  אַתְּ שׁוֹמֶרֶת עֻבָּר בְּרֶחֶם וּמוֹצִיאַתוֹ בְּתוֹךְ דְּמֵי לְיָדָהּ וְנֻפַּחְתְּ בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים. אַתְּ שׁוֹמֶרֶת אֶת הָרַךְ מִנֶּגַע וּמָחֲלָה וְאַתְּ מַשְׁקָה אוֹתוֹ מֵחָלָב אִמּוֹ וְאַתְּ שׁוֹמֶרֶת אֶת הָאֵם וְאֶת הָאָב. בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ שׁוֹמֶרֶת אֶת הָרַךְ וְאֶת הוֹרָיו 

At shomeret ubar b’rekhem umotsiyato b’tokh d’may laydah v’nofakhat b’apav nishmat khayim. At shomeret et harakh minega umakhalah, v’at mashkah oto maykhalav imo v’at shomeret et ha’aym v’et ha’av. B’rukhah at Y-ah, shomeret et harakh v’et horav.

A verse (for the mother’s partner or a friend to recite) Genesis 21:8:

And the boy grew and he was weaned and Abraham made a big party on the day that Isaac was weaned.

וַיִּגְדַּל הַיֶּלֶד, וַיִּגָּמַל; וַיַּעַשׂ אַבְרָהָם מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל, בְּיוֹם הִגָּמֵל אֶת-יִצְחָק

Vayigdal hayeled vayigamal vaya’as Avraham mishteh gadol b’yom higamayl et Yitskhak.

A rabbi or friend offers the mother the following blessing, a variation on the mishebayrakh traditionally recited for a birth. The mother should make a silent promise to give some amount to charity.

The one who blessed our mothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, will bless [mother’s name] and her son/daughter who is weaned, [child’s name], because the mother will give to charity. For this may she merit to raise him/her to Torah, khupah and good deeds. And let us say Amen.

  מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אִמוֹתֵינוּ שָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת {פְּלוֹנִית} וְאֶת בְּנֵה בְּנָהּ בִּתָּהּ הֲנִגְמַל נִגְמֶלֶת {פְּלוֹנִי} בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁנּוֹדֶרֶת צְדָקָה. בִּשְׂכַר זֶה תִגְדְלוֹ תְּגַדְּלָהּ לְתוֹרָה לְחֻפַּה וְלַמַּעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן

Mi she’bayrakh imotaynu Sarah, Rivkah, Rakhel v’Layah, hu y’varaykh et [plonit] v’et b’nah/bitah hanigmal/nigmelet [ploni], b’avur shenoderet ts’dakah. B’skhar zeh tigd’lo/tigd’lah l’torah, l’khupah ul’ma’asim tovim. V’nomar Amen.


Mazel Tov!


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