Shalom Zachor

This past Friday night I attended my first Shalom Zachor. This is a traditional Friday night gathering to celebrate the birth of a baby boy. I hear what you are thinking. I gave birth to FOUR baby boys and I hadn’t attended one Shalom Zachor? Yes, that’s right. In the neighbourhood where I live it is traditional only for men to go and ‘wet the baby’s head”. Women just don’t go. For two of ours, I was still in the hospital. But even when I wasn’t, it was not my place to go, or so I thought.

So we were notified of this Shalom Zachor in our neighbourhood, and the KoD asked me if I wanted to go. I said no. Women don’t go. He said, but here they do. I looked at him like he was an alien with three heads. The wise man didn’t press the issue, bless him. We ate out at friends Friday night (Rabbi L and the lovely Rebbetzin A – food and company was delicious and awesome as usual) and they asked us if we had planned to go to the Shalom Zachor. Again I gave my shpiel – and again was told that it isn’t like that in New Hempstead. Honestly, I felt really weird going – as if I was transgressing some sin. But if Rabbi L said it was ok, then fine. You know, with the KoD and Rabbi L teamed up against me, I was a goner…

We went. I wished the mommy mazal tov (she looked awesome, especially for someone just having given birth a day or two prior). The women were sat in the living room and the men were sat around a huge table eating yummy foods, drinking beer and having a jolly good time. I got to hold the centre of attention – 9 lbs of absolute yumminess. You forget how small newborns are (not that mine were that big until 2 months of age) and just how snugglable and delicious and cute (when did mine grow up so much?)…The best part of holding him? When he fussed I passed him back to his Grandma.

It was awesome to be part of this ritual. But it got me curious. What is the source for this custom? It is not a law. Just a custom practiced for a long time. And why do we eat chickpeas and drink beer at a Shalom Zachor? Why do we not have something similar for girls? Please quote your sources.

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19 responses to “Shalom Zachor

  1. A Sefardic and Italian ritual called a zeved habat dates back to the
    seventeenth century. The name of the ceremony is derived from
    Bereishit 30:20. Following the birth of Zevulun, and preceding the birth
    of Dinah, Leah states, “Zevadani Elokim oti Zeved Tov,” “God has granted
    me a gift.” Thus the term zeved habat should be translated as “gift of
    the daughter.” Special melodies were sung at the ceremony, and verses
    from the Song of Songs were recited (see text below).

    Click to access opt_Birth.pdf

  2. Why chickpeas and beer? If you’re going to make a party for a future man – serve food that men like!

    Seriously though, besides the kabalistic connections between shabbos and a bris, we come to comfort the child on the torah he forgot. Since everyone is around friday night, we do it on shabbos. The chickpeas are a hint to the aveilus of the child – just like a mourner r”l eats round peas as a symbol of the cycle of life, so too we eat by the meal for the child who has forgotten the torah he learned on high, and thus is in a state of mourning . . .

    • um, don’t girls also learn Torah in the womb? don’t they have to be comforted too?

      • Lady Lock and Load

        Well, you will just have to have a baby girl and make a Zeved Habat, or a Shalom Bat, to set the record straight! Equal rights for women!!!

      • As others pointed out, there’s nothing wrong with making something for a girl. But again, it’s an act essentially tied to bris of a boy. At this party that connects Shabbos with the bris, we comfort the child for the loss of torah. Thus even if girls learn, since there is no (official) gathering we don’t add the customs connected to mourning.

  3. The reason it is only done for boys is because that is what the Shulcha Aruch says. It does not say to do it for girls, so people don’t. Oh and there is certainly no prohibition.

  4. we had a simchat bat for my daughter, though she was born on friday night just before midnight so the next morning (shabbos) i walked from hospital to name her thought that was special, she was less than 10 hours old and had a name already…

  5. yeah, as the law says, many ppl (perhaps more in MO communities) make a Simchat Bat celebration in honor of their new baby girls.

  6. According to the Ben Ish Hai and several other Sephardi Poskim there is something called a Zeved Bat(gift of a daughter), also known as Leilet Shiti(or Shishi) because it is supposed to be done on the sixth night after giving birth.

    There is a large seudah and techinically Talimdei Chakhamim are supposed to be invited to say words of Torah. There are also a couple of Masechtas of Mishnah learned in their entirety in the merit of the daughter. Usually the mother blesses Gomel at seuda as well.

    My wife likes this better than a Shalom Zachor as she has a guaranteed six days to recover first.

  7. Mottel, I thought the Shalom Zachor was to console the Father for the loss of the Torah the child had learned in the Womb?

    Hadassah, yes, in New Hempstead we have advanced enough where women come to the Shalom Zachor even in Shul!

    Hope they gave you some beer….

  8. In Switzerland we have “hollekreish” for girls. I think the custom comes from Alsace and was originally the naming ceremony. It takes place after two weeks or a month. The children (mainly girls) of the community are invited (and get some sweets). They all shokle (or lift) the cradle and someone says: Hollekreish, hollekreish (haut les crèches = lift the cradle). wie soll das Kindle heissen? (what should be the child’s name?) and then they say the name.

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