What Everyone Should Know About
Simchat Bat and Brit Milah Ceremonies
Jews and Christians share many things, and what we share is no less profound than our differences.
We share a belief in a God who can be approached through prayer and worship, a God who loves and is revealed in the Bible and in history. We share a book, the Hebrew Bible, which most Christians call the Old Testament. And both Jews and Christians celebrate religious rituals at the beginning of life.
In virtually all cultures, rituals for babies are moments of sacred initiation, and many share certain elements--especially joy and gratitude for the gift of a new person in the world. Most Jewish and Christian birth rituals also bestow a name upon a new baby. By doing this within a religious framework, both traditions give a spiritual dimension to the child’s identity.
But there are important differences between the rites of the two faiths. The Christian ritual of baptism, for example, uses water as a sign of identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus and as a sign of welcome into the Christian community. Jewish baby ceremonies, including those that use water, all signify a child’s entry into the Jewish covenant with God. The Hebrew word for covenant is brit.
Brit refers to the relationship between the Jewish people and God. A covenant is a contract-an agreement between responsible parties, a two-way street. Circumcision is one of the terms of that agreement, which was set forth in the Bible. Since the beginning of the Jewish people, starting with Abraham and Sarah, Jewish parents have been called to welcome their eighth-day old sons into this covenant with a ceremony that is also called a "brit". Girls are welcomed into the covenant with a ceremony called a "Brit Bat" or "Simchat Bat", which features some of the same prayers, songs and traditions found in a brit milah ceremony.
The Brit Bat or Simchat Bat Ceremony is a ritual that unites Jews throughout ages and across cultures and signifies the connection between individual human life and the Holy. With this ceremony, parents announce their commitment to taking on the responsibilities and joys of raising a Jewish daughter.
As at a christening, a Jewish daughter receives her name at a Brit Bat or Simchat Bat. A Hebrew name, which may or may not be different from his English name, will be announced. The Hebrew name is used on religious documents and to summon readers to the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Names are most often given in memory of a loved one who has died, as a tribute.
One interesting difference between Jewish and Christian birth rituals concerns godparents. Christian godparents often have an important religious function, speaking on behalf of the child at a baptism or christening, and sometimes agreeing to act as the child’s spiritual guides in the future. In the Jewish tradition, however, godparents (kvatter and kvatterin) play a strictly honorary role at the ceremony, which often entail little more than bringing the baby into the room or holding him or her during some part of the ritual.
The Hebrew word for joy, simcha, is also the Hebrew word for party. A Simchat Bat or bris is a simcha that signifies the triumph of life, the promise of a new generation. According to Jewish law and tradition, all life-cycle events include a meal of celebration and expressions of happiness.
A joyful heart is the most important gift you can bring to a Simchat Bat.*
It would be my honor to attend your daughter’s Simchat Bat Ceremony.
Dr. Richard I. Roberts - Certifed Mohel
*Source: "The New Jewish Baby Book" by Anita