Some Ashkenazi Jews have a beautiful practice of welcoming a baby boy to the world on his first Friday night of life, before his bris. At the “Shalom Zachar,” we offer good wishes, eat a snack, drink a l’chaim, and console our new little friend as he leaves the comforts of his mother’s womb.
A quick Google search will provide several different explanations for this practice. My favorite comes from Chabad.org:
Before conception, the soul dwells in Heaven close to God. After conception, it dwells in the womb with its private angel. This entire utopia ends with the birth, when the soul arrives here to live among ordinary people.
And so, we show the new soul the one thing on earth that he has never seen before—gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness). The angels have no use for acts of kindness because their world is already perfect. Our world is broken and needs repair. Judaism teaches us that we have an obligation to work on perfecting this world and making life better for each other. (Note: This is a big part of Federation’s work.)
The simple expression of kindness that we offer by welcoming this new baby and congratulating his parents is the comfort his soul needs to transition to our world.
I look forward to tonight’s Shalom Zachar as we welcome my new grandson!
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