NAMING BABY GIRLS
The birth of a male child is an event that lends itself to much discussion among the halachically-minded. Assuming that the child is healthy, he receives a brit mila (circumcision) after eight days of life; if he is a first born and neither of his parents are of priestly or Levite stock then there is a pidyon ha-ben; and there has developed a custom to have a party welcoming the new boy into the world on the Friday night after his birth ("Shalom Zachar" - for more on all of these topics, see theYear 4 archives).
By contrast, the birth of a daughter carries with it scant, if any, customs and laws. While a daughter is half of a fulfillment of Beit Hillel's view that one must have both a son and a daughter in order to fulfill the first commandment of being fruitful and multiplying, there are no major religious ceremonies that accompany her birth.
The one exception, small as it may be, is the giving of the name. The general custom, cited in the Yalkut Minhagim, is for the father to give his daughter a name upon being called up to the Torah, an idea based on the verse in Yeshayahu 62:2, which relates the giving of a name to the word of Hashem (i.e. the Torah). There is, however, some discussion as to how soon the name should be given. There are those who feel that the child should be named as soon as possible, and thus the next day on which the Torah is read is the proper time for the naming. On the other hand, there are those who mandate a five-day waiting period before the name is given (although if Shabbat comes sooner they will be lenient), while others feel that a full week should pass before the name is given, similar to the week that is waited before a boy is named at his brit mila.
The Darchei Teshuva and the Bnei Yissachar (his grandfather) offer an explanation for the reasons to name the girl sooner rather than later. We know that there are many significances that names have, one of them being that they create a bond between the child and the holiness of the Jewish people. Thus, a boy is named on the occasion of his brit mila, when he is formally ushered into the covenant between Hashem and the Jews. A girl, by contrast, has no such formal occasion on which she can be named, and thus the naming is done as soon as possible during the reading of the Torah, the universal sign of the covenant between Hashem and His people.
Perhaps to "make up" for the fact that there is no mandated event for a baby girl, the custom has sprung up recently to have a "simchat bat" - a celebration for the daughter, usually held at some unspecified time after the birth (a date usually dictated by convenience). However, it should be noted that among both Ashkenazim and Sefardim there is precedent for some sort of party celebrating a baby girl. The Sefer Ma'or HaGadol notes that since the birth of a child represents the descending to our world of a soul from the holy world above, and since the naming of the child signifies the time of the soul's full arrival into this world, it is appropriate to have a feast on such an occasion.Bach mentions such a feast in his responsa (#95), as does Maharam Mintz (#37). Both speak of an event whereby the children would gather around the crib, raise it up, and recite the name of the newborn three times. In Sefardic circles there still exists the practice known as "zeved ha-bat," where the child is held while Shir HaShirim 2:14 is recited. Once that recitation is concluded, the child is given a name.
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