There is a beautiful custom practiced by religious Jews the world over to celebrate the birth of a son on the first Friday night of his life. I would like to explore the sources of this custom as well as some of the reasons for it and some of the sub-customs that evolved from it.

There are various thoughts as to the source of this minhag.

1) The Gemara in Bava Kama 80b refers to a Seudas shavua haben. Rashi explains that this is referring to the Pidyon Haben, However, Tosafot bring Rabbeinu Tam who says that the correct reading is “Yeshua HaBen” Which is a Seuda to give hoda’ah on the safe birth of the child. Many people say that this is the Shalom Zachor, however nowadays we call it a Seudas Shalom Zachor based on the gemara in Nidda 31 that when a zachar comes into the world, shalom comes into the world.

Based on Rabbeinu Tam, the Terumas Hadeshen ruled that one should make a Shalom Zachor[1]. The Rema[2] , quoting the Terumas Hadeshen, comments on the Shulchan Aruch that there are those who have a custom to make a Seudas Hoda’ah on the friday night after a baby boy was born and they would gather around the baby and eat and share Divrei Torah and Hoda’ah.

2) The Taz[3] explains based on the Midrash[4] that relates a parable of a king who decreed that one cannot see him until he sees the queen first, so too Hashem will not accept a korban until it is at least 7 days old, in order for it to be “seen” by Shabbos before it is brought to Hashem. Therefore, Mila, which is similar to a korban, also cannot take place until there is a Shabbos preceding it [5].

3) Friday night is the time when everyone is home and can come together for such an event.

4) The Yavetz in Migdal Oz suggests that Shabbos is the first mitzvah this child will be fulfilling. therefore called Shalom Zachor as in zachor es yom haShabbos.

5) Another reason brought down is that this is the first Shabbos that this child will have a neshama yeseira and we come to celebrate with him.

6) It is brought down amongst many poskim is based on the Gemara in Nidda that there is an angel that teaches Torah to the child, and at the time of birth the malach hits the kid on the lip and he forgets all the Torah. therefore, the child is considered an avel, and we come on Shabbos to comfort the child on his loss. (this is a little hard to understand as you are not allowed to be in mourning on Shabbos). This explanation is a bit difficult to understand, as we see that the Shalom Zachor is celebrated with great simcha and brachos for the child, to the contrary , there is no form of aveilus seen at all?! Furthermore, how can we comfort this small infant who was just learning Torah from a Malach and forgot everything. What can we say to him?

Rav Hadar Margolin[6] explains based on the Gr’a that in order to understand this we have to understand the idea of a child learning Torah in the womb. The Gr’a asks the common and obvious question, what is the point of learning Torah in the mothers womb if we are all going to forget it anyway and it is as if we never learnt in the first place?

The Gra answers based on the Alshich who explains the pasuk of ותן חלקנו בתורתך that all the neshamot were present at Har Sinai and each one received his portion in Torah, the portion in the Torah which is relevant to him. This, explains the Gr’a is the explanation for the Gemara[7] that says יגעתי ומצאתי תאמין, that only one who says he has searched and he has found (the Torah) is believed. It is like finding a lost object, as it is your portion. Therefore, if he would not have learned his portion of Torah in the womb, how would he be able to search for it afterwards, it was never lost to warrant the search. Therefore he is taught “all the Torah” in the womb. This means “all the Torah” that is relevant to his neshama, his portion in the Torah. then when he leaves the womb, he forgets the Torah, but he has what to find, so long as he searches.This further explains the teaching that he who learns but does not fulfill the Torah it would have been better off had he not been born. as he has already learnt all this Torah in the womb. however, one who fulfills what he learns is fulfilling the reason for creation[8]

With this we can understand the nechama that we give a child at the Shalom Zachor. Although, he is mourning for the Torah that he lost, the loss is in itself a comfort, as this will lead him to rise to greater heights and work harder to acquire and fulfill his portion on the Torah. However on the other hand, he is now starting off to fulfill his tafkid and for that we encourage him and give brachos that he should be a talmid chacham and an עמל בתורה.

The Imrei Emes[9] likens the Shalom Zachor to the purification process the Jewish People went through after Yetzias Mitzrayim that enabled them to be present at Kabalas haTorah.

The Different Minhagim of a Shalom Zachor

The Chasam Sofer explained that if you cannot make the actual Seuda the entire Shabbos is a time to learn and daven on behalf of the child and the hashpa’ah of that Shabbos will have an important effect in the child’s week ahead, which includes the Bris, and entire life.

The Chiddushei HaRim noted that one should make an effort to have ten talmidei chachamim present at the Shalom Zachor in order that the Shechina should rest there as well.

The Ropshitzer Rebbe used to say that it is good for a person to meet a new neshama, and therefore he would encourage his chassidim to go to the Shalom Zachor Seuda

The Divrei Chaim of Sanz would encourage people to go to the Shalom Zachor Seuda as a segula for yiras shamayim, he based this on the Gemara in Berachos discussing the halacha of rising for the elderly, the Gemara says that one should also give kavod to a Talmid Chacham who forgot his Torah. The Sanzer Rebbe said that this applies to a newborn child who forgot his learning. He brings down the Zohar that by fulfilling the Mitzvah of Mipnei Saivah Takum one is zoche to Yiras Shamayim. The Divrei Chaim exclaimed further that if the child is the reason for others to have Yiras Shamayim, he too will be zoche to Yiras Shamayim.

There is a minhag to recite Krias Shema at the Shalom Zachor, even if the child is not in the house.

The Minhag to eat chickpeas comes from the fact that the child is considered like a mourner, since he lost the Torah and chick peas is mourners food – due to its roundness which represents the cyclic nature of life.

Sephardim do not make a shalom Zachar, as it is only a minhag of the Rema and not brought down in the Mechaber. However, they do celebrate a Bris Yitzchak, which is similar to a Vach Nacht which we will explain.

Why is there no Shalom Nekava / Bat?

It seems that a girl also learns her Torah from a malach, if so why don’t we make a similar event on the Shabbos that a girl is born?[10]

The basic answer is that based on the reason why we call it a Shalom Zachor, because the zachor brings peace to the world. therefore, it is only applicable to celebrate the shalom that came with a zachor.

*Perhaps we should have a binas nekeva?*

A second answer is that, the Shalom Zachor is considered a Seudas mitzvah, which requires ten adult men in attendance, it is therefore not proper for men to come and give birchas shalom to a nekeva.

As an alternative, in order to publicize the miracle of the birth and give Hoda’’ah to HKBH for the child, we make a Kiddush on Shabbos morning on the birth of a girl, as is our custom.

The Yavetz explains that the neshama of the zachor includes that of the nekeva. therefore, the zachor has the Shalom Zachor and this includes for the nekeva as well.

We see this concept in Sotah 2a that forty days before a child is born his second half is announced, according to kabbalah, a husband and wife are joining together to one neshama. This may explain those who say that the kiddush for a girl is a segula for a shidduch.

[1] 269

[2] YD 265

[3] 265;3

[4] Emor 27

[5] See Avodat Yisrael parshas Emor who explains this in length from a kabbalistic perspective.

[6] The Sefer בשמחה ובטוב לבב

[7] Megilla 6

[8] This is said also by Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk in the Noam Elimelech – vayikra

[9] Reb Leib Eiger, Lublin – Bechukotai

[10] See Dagul /Mirvava YD 168; Responsa Birchas Reuven Shlomo Vol. 7 Siman 38

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