Should we have a “Shalom Zachar”? (What is a Shalom Zachar, anyway?)
A Shalom Zachar is a party to welcome the new baby, typically held at the newborn’s home, on the Friday evening after his birth. It can also be held at the synagogue or a grandparent or friend’s house. Sweets (and sometimes chick peas) are served, good wishes are extended, and words of Torah are traditionally discussed.
There are several reasons for this ancient tradition. There is a Talmudic dictum that when a zachar (male) is born, shalom (peace) comes to the world. Hence the name, Shalom Zachar. On Shabbos, we gather to celebrate the hope that this zachar, and his study of Torah, will bring peace to the world.
It is said that when a baby develops in the womb, an angel teaches him the entire Torah. Just before his birth, the angel touches the child on his mouth, causing him to forget all that he had learned. But, this introduction to Torah study makes it easier for him to “re-learn” it after birth. Another purpose of the Shalom Zachar is to console the baby for his loss of Torah knowledge.
Since a bris is on the 8th day of life, every baby experiences a Shabbos before his bris. The transition from Friday afternoon into Shabbos is a spiritual boost to re-energize each of us, but particularly the baby, before his bris. At the Shalom Zachar, we welcome him and celebrate his life in preparation for his bris.
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