Jewish Baby Gifts

6th Jul 2014

In Judaism, procreation is one of God’s commandments, but also an emulation of His acts. Conceiving a child is an act of creating a new human being, as well as a repetition of the Creation. And since the Creation is a divine act, it is a common Jewish belief that a child has three parents – a mother, a father and God.

The birth of a Jewish child is a time of joy for every Jew, as a Jewish child represents a promise to the Jewish people, to its resistance throughout time and space and its strength in the face of danger.

The first event of the Jewish life cycle for a child is the ceremony marking his/her acceptance in the Jewish people, also known as the Congregation of Israel. In the case of a boy, this is the circumcision or the Brit Milah, while for a girl is the ceremony of receiving a name.

It is customary on these occasions to offer gifts to the newly born. However, while in other cultures gifts are popularly offered in the context of the baby showers organized before the birth of the child, in the Jewish culture, such baby showers and the accompanying gift offering are prohibited by custom (even though there is no Jewish law that would forbid it by default).

This is the case especially of Orthodox Jews, who believe that celebrating an unborn child will only attract bad spirits or the evil eye and bring misfortunes upon the respective child. The situation regarding baby showers is more relaxed in liberal Jewish circles. Such beliefs derive in fact from t medieval times, when infant mortality rates were high and given the importance associated with the birth of child to the Jewish nation, the idea of not celebrating a child before its birth has remained at the stage of being a superstition nowadays. Thus, the offering of gifts is supposed to be taking place after the birth and the receiving of a name.

The buying of appropriate gifts for a baby is a challenge in itself. One can buy toys or even stocks to put on the name of the new born. However, another option is to buy gifts that have a particular significance, and which could help the new born learn about Jewish values and traditions at an early age and thus be more aware of them and able to treasure them accordingly. To give a few examples one can buy: richly decorated tzedakah boxes, depicting events described in the Torah, or having children’s characters painted on them, mezuzahs, silver Hamsas for girls, wooden carved menorahs, etc. Baby girls could also be offered pieces of jewelry – bracelets that could be worn around their wrists or necklaces that could be worn when they grow up, with pendants depicting various Jewish symbols – the Hamsa hand, the Chai symbol etc.

Consequently, such baby gifts should fulfil two qualities – practicality and significance. The gift should be appropriate enough to play with, as well as symbol to learn from wearing or using it.