A blessing for daughters. That’s what a Simchat Bat is. It literally means the “joy of a daughter.” I’ve also heard it referred to as a Brit Bat, or Covenant for Daughters. Since we have so many daughters, we have always wanted a special way to bless them and acknowledge their entry into our family, and ultimately into the covenant of Yeshua. A blessing ceremony is a way to surround them with blessings, words, and breathe knowledge of the divine over them even as they are only tiny infants at this stage.
In Leviticus, women were instructed not to go the holy convocations for 40 days after giving birth to a boy and for 80 days after giving birth to a girl. After that time, they were to bring a special offering to the Temple and then were able to join the community once again. In a modern world where women are always seeking to be equal with men, this verse can bring about confusion and resentment. The Greek Orthodox Church gives the reasoning for waiting 80 days to baptize a girl as a reminder to everyone that the woman was weaker and sinned first, thereby cursing the entire world with impurity. But I do not think this is necessarily the case, though I could be wrong. There aren’t any verses explaining this difference in numbers. These laws were about ritual purity relating to the sanctuary of old, and the specific laws relating to the Temple have been done away with. However, I believe there is something significant about taking a time of separation, nidah, and treating it as a sacred time between myself, my new baby, and my heavenly Abba – not to focus on the fact that woman sinned first, but to immerse myself in the beauty and miracle of creating life in partnership with the King of the Universe. There is no way we can know the mind of God in giving 40 days for a boy and 80 days for a girl, but surely it was not arbitrary. Since a time of separation freed a woman from religious obligations, it can be seen a gift of rest from the Lord. So having a baby girl gives me a double portion of rest! I like what Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno says (from Sforno on Torah) about a woman just after birth. “Mentally she is not yet geared to concentrate on the holy. Since the sacred demands kavanah, intent, she must wait until her thoughts are sufficiently predisposed to focus on the non-physical, namely, the spiritual and the holy.” Any woman who has given birth can attest to the fact that the sleepless nights, physical pain of birth and subsequent recovery, as well as the myriad hormonal changes and emotional weepiness that come on like a deluge are very difficult to put aside even for a regular holy convocation. What a woman needs after this extremely intense and draining experience is to truly rest and recover. To have nothing expected of her but to nourish this new life. To separate herself from the whole world so that she can pray and be restored. Nidah after childbirth has become a sacred experience for me. 80 days is a long time, but I find that I’ve cherished it more and more after each delivery. This most recent nidah was particularly enjoyable to me, as I’ve had more time for prayer and quiet devotions than ever before. The more kiddos I have, the more noisy my “quiet” times have become, and to set aside the Shabbat and enjoy the entire afternoon resting at home has been purely blissful if a bit lonely at times.
Our family has chosen to celebrate the Simchat Bat at the end of 80 days, as a sort of “baby debut” into community. I treasure these times in my heart because they establish such a wonderful foundation of blessing in a baby’s life. For me, it takes the concept of a baby dedication a bit further. Grandparents, godparents, and friends can pray and prepare specific blessings and words for the baby, and there were many wonderful things said to Ketziah that I will meditate on for some time. Of course, we haven’t perfected this tradition; we’ve only made it special for what our family appreciates. I’ve pulled bits and pieces from all different kinds of liturgies and traditions. Two of my favorites are an adaptation from one of General Douglas MacArthur’s prayers called “Build Me a Daughter” and a ceremony called Awakening the Senses.
Build Me a Daughter
Build me a daughter of Zion, O Lord, who will bring honor to the names of the matriarchs. Bestow upon her their qualities of nobility, beauty, strength, and gentility. May she be like Ruth, a fountain of our faith. May she be like Golda, a pillar of our people. Instill in her the love of learning; grant her the joy of marriage; teach her to have compassion upon all life that she be blessed with the blessings of Torah, Messiah Yeshua, the Wedding Chuppah, and Maasim Tovim (which is completing the mitzvah of bringing children into the world). Build me a daughter, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when she is weak and brave enough to face herself when she is afraid; one who will be confident yet teachable in honest defeat; humble and gentle in victory. Send her, I pray, not only in the path of ease and comfort but also in the spur of difficulty and challenge. Here let her learn to stand up in the storm; here let her learn compassion for those who fall. Grant her the insight to know herself and the wisdom to know You. Be with us, her parents, as we begin this new journey through life. Build me a daughter, O Lord, whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a daughter who will master herself before she seeks to master others; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. After all these things are hers, this I pray, enough sense of humor that she may always be serious but never take herself seriously. Give her humility so that she may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength; then we, her parents, will dare to whisper, “We, too, have been enriched.”
When we awaken the senses, we bring in several Jewish elements to awaken our baby to the beauty of the world around her, particularly as she begins to develop a faith of her own. To awaken her hearing, we rattle a silver bell and say, “Let your life be filled with music, to inspire and encourage you, to connect you with others, and to permeate you with a love of life and worship for your King. May you be blessed beneath the wings of Shechinah. Be blessed with love, be blessed with peace. May the ears of your spirit be ever open to Yeshua, Who has said, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’”To awaken touch, we wrap her in a tallit and say, “Be embraced by the tallit, under which your parents were wed and now as you are lovingly held in it, know that your family and community embrace you. Just as you are embraced by the tallit, may you grasp wisdom in a bear hug all your days. As it says in Proverbs, ‘Prize [wisdom], and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her.’” To awaken her sight, we pass a havdalah candle in front of her and say, “Women have traditionally been guardians of the light, kindling the spiritual flames every Shabbat and holiday. Let the mesmerizing light of this candle remind us of our connection to the presence of God’s eternal light. Awaken, tiny heart, to the glorious light of your Savior Yeshua. As you walk circumspectly in the world, remember, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’”
To awaken her sense of smell, we hold the besamim box in front of her and recite, “We smell spices when Shabbat is over in order to bask in the sweetness of the day of rest we’ve been given from the Lord. Just as you are being awoken to the appointed times of our Father in Heaven, may you always long for the day when we will be united with our King forever. May you long for His presence as a sweet fragrance in your life. Remember that you are to carry the perfume of kindness and mercy with you, ‘For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.’” And finally, for awakening her sense of taste, we take a Kiddush cup of wine and give her the first taste of wine. ”Take your first sip of wine, Ketziah, and taste the drink that is the holy link between people and God, used to sanctify our festivals and celebrations. Just as wine makes the heart glad, so we pray that you, Ketziah, would be made glad in the Lord. May your heart sing out with the Psalmist, ‘O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!’”
I just love the pictures we’ve gotten of our babies being immersed in the full experience of their senses. What a privilege, indeed, what an honor and sacred blessing to be in covenant with the Lord and to bring our children into it. It is a sobering responsibility of the highest order, and we don’t take it lightly. For me as a mother, these kinds of cornerstone events in our children’s lives and our lives as parents provide a framework for building their faith and ours as we walk out our sanctification.
I truly have been enriched.