Baby Naming

While the naming of a boy is generally deferred until the brit, a baby girl is named in the synagogue during the Torah reading service. The source for naming a girl at the Torah is mentioned in the Yalkut Minhagim as being based on the verse in Yeshayahu: "And the nations will see your triumph, and all kings your glory, and you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will establish"[1] which associates the giving of a name to the word of Hashem (i.e. the Torah). Similarly, since there is no scripturally ordained procedure for the naming of a girl[2] it has become customary to do so at the Torah which is the universal symbol of the covenant between Hashem and His people.[3] The name is given in the course of a misheberach prayer used specifically for naming a girl. It is often followed by an additional misheberach prayer for the mother's full recovery from childbirth.[4]

There is, however, some discussion as to how soon after birth the name should be given. There are those who feel that the child should be named as soon as possible. According to this approach, the baby is named at the next service which includes a Torah reading whether it be a few hours or a couple of days following the birth.[5] On the other hand, there are those authorities who counsel a five-day waiting period before the name is given although they permit the name to be given if Shabbat arrives within these five days. Yet other authorities feel that a full week should pass before the name is given, similar to the week that must pass before a boy has his brit mila and is named.

There are many authorities who consider it ideal to name a baby girl on the day she is born, whenever possible. As such, the father of a baby girl born late Sunday night should endeavor to name the baby at the Torah reading on Monday morning.[6] So too, if the baby is born on a day on which the Torah is not read, an effort should be made to name the baby at the next Torah reading service.[7] It is taught that it is auspicious to name a baby at the earliest possible opportunity in order to unite its Jewish soul with its Jewish name, both of which originate in Heaven.[8] There was once a custom to have the baby naming ceremony take place in the family's home on the Shabbat following the birth[9] and some even did so on the actual day of birth.[10] We see from here that it is not absolutely essential that the naming take place in the presence of a Torah.

That being said, there is a widespread custom to delay the naming of a girl until the Shabbat following the birth, even though the Torah will be read a number of times beforehand.[11] Among the rationalizations for this custom is that naming a baby on Shabbat ensures a more festive atmosphere as fellow congregants are not rushing out to work. So too, it is appropriate to offer some sort of festive meal following a naming ceremony, and sponsoring the Shabbat morning Kiddush serves this purpose.[12] Delaying the naming until Shabbat when more people are present in the synagogue is also a fulfillment of the verse "B'rov am hadrat melech"[13] (The King's Glory is in the Multitude of People) which teaches that one should endeavor to perform mitzvot in the presence of as many people as possible.

There are a number of other customs which exist regarding when a baby girl should be named. As mentioned, there are those who have the custom to wait a minimum of five days before naming a baby.[14] In some communities there even existed a custom to wait an entire month before naming a baby[15] and some even waited forty days in order to ensure that the baby's mother has completely healed before giving a name.[16] While common custom is not like either of these views, there is a prevalent custom in some communities to delay the naming of a baby daughter until the mother is able to attend services in order to be present at the naming.

In the event that a baby girl is born while the father is out of town, the naming should be delayed until the father returns home in order for him to arrange the naming in the synagogue.[17] It is also considered acceptable to delay the naming somewhat if the parents have not yet agreed upon what to name their child. Delaying the naming merely in order to allow more family members or out-of-town guests to attend the ceremony is to be discouraged. In such a situation, the naming should take place as soon as possible, though the Kiddush or other party-like celebration can be delayed until such guests can participate.

[1] Yeshayahu 62:2.

[2] Zecher David 1:81 p.224.

[3] Cited at:

[4] Igrot Moshe, OC 4:67.

[5] Rivevot Ephraim 4:44:27.

[6] Zecher David 1:81. Most sources found in this chapter are cited in Chikrei Minhagim (Gurary) p.79-82

[7] Darchei Chaim V'shalom, Kriat Hatorah 219.

[8] For more on the relationship between the naming and the soul see: (Heb.).

[9] Siddur Yaavetz, Seder Mila 103:2.

[10] Brit Avot 8:3.

[11] Teshuvot V'hanhagot 2:132; Minchat Yitzchak 4:107.

[12] Taamei Haminhagim, Kuntres Acharon 929.

[13] Mishlei 14:28.

[14] Taamei Haminhagim, Kuntres Acharon 929.

[15] Ot Brit Chapter 11; Brit Avot 8:3.

[16] Baalei Brit Avraham, Parshat Tazria.

[17] Beit Aharon, EH, Gittin 5:129.