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Birth

(For a discussion of when life begins see our article included under "Abortion")

Judaism completely rejects the notion of original sin. According to Judaism, a child is born pure, completely free from sin. We pray daily "Oh G-d, the soul which you gave me is pure. You created it, you fashioned it, you breathed it into me."

Birth by Caesarean section is permitted in Jewish law, as would be just about any procedure necessary to preserve the life of the mother or the child.

Immediately after birth, a woman is considered niddah and must remain sexually separated from her husband for a period of seven days after the birth of a male child and 14 days after the birth of a female child. Lev. 12:2. This separation is the same as the regular monthly niddah separation. In the days of the Temple, when considerations of ritual purity were more important, a woman was considered partially impure for an additional period of 33 days after the birth of a male child and 66 days after the birth of a female child. 

After a child is born, the father is given the honor of an aliyah (an opportunity to bless the reading of the Torah) in synagogue at the next opportunity. At that time, a blessing is recited for the health of the mother and the child. If the child is a girl, she is named at that time.

 

Naming a Child

A Jew's formal Hebrew name is used in Jewish rituals, primarily in calling the person to the Torah for an aliyah, or in a ketubah (marriage contract).

A girl's name is officially given by the parents in the synagogue when the father receives an aliyah after her birth. A boy's name is given at the time of the brit milah (ritual circumcision), to be discussed below.

The standard form of a Hebrew name for a male is [child's name] ben (meaning "son of") [father's name]. For a female, the form is [child's name] bat (meaning "daughter of") [father's name]. If the child is a kohein, the denotation ha-Kohein is added after the name. If the child is of the tribe of Levi, the denotation Ha-Levi is added.

There are no formal religious requirements for naming a child. The name has no inherent religious significance. In fact, the child's "Hebrew name" need not even be Hebrew; Yiddish names are often used, or even English ones.

It is customary among Ashkenazic Jews to name a child after a recently deceased relative. This custom comes partly from a desire to honor the dead relative, and partly from superstition against naming a child after a living relative. It is almost unheard of for an Ashkenazic Jew to be named after his own father, though it does occasionally happen. Among Sephardic Jews, it is customary to name a child after a parent or living relative.

Last updated on: 10/20/2017
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