The Elements of a Brit Bat

Despite the relative newness and great varieties of welcoming ceremonies for girls, a basic structure appears to have emerged.

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·        A ritual welcoming this new daughter into the Covenant or celebrating her membership in it. This might involve wrapping her in a tallit, lighting candles, immersing her in a mini-mikveh (a stand-in for an actual mikveh, or ritual bath), or washing her hands and feet.

·        Explanation of the baby's names, and recitation of formal naming blessings giving her Jewish (Hebrew or Yiddish) names. This is a good time for grandparents and aunts and uncles, as well as parents, to speak about the wonderful qualities possessed by the people after whom the baby is being named.

·        Presenting Jewishly meaningful gifts to the baby, like a tzedakah box, kiddush cup or candlesticks--by her parents, older siblings or beloved relatives.

·        Recitation of prayers, poems, and other readings by honored guests.

·        Blessings of gratitude from the baby’s parents. The blessing known as "shechechiyanu" is often recited when an individual or family reaches a new occasion.. Some might say this at the moment of their daughter’s birth. The traditional blessing ending with the words "hatov v’hameitiv" (the One who is good and renders goodness) is said upon hearing good news, or when something wonderful happens to an individual or to the community . Either or both of these, or other closing prayers, may be said as well.

·        Another song or two to close the ceremony.

·        Reciting hamotzi, the blessing over bread (usually challah) which serves as the blessing over the entire meal to follow. Many families dip the challah into honey (a similar custom is followed by many  newlyweds during their first year of marriage) to set apart this sweet day.

·        Everyone is invited to join in a festive meal.

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Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a staff writer for The Jewish Week.