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Are there any customs associated with a birthday?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Life Cycle » Birth » Birthdays | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Firstly, we wish you a very happy birthday, or Yom Huledet Same'ach -- as it is said in Hebrew.


The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneersohn, encouraged everyone to celebrate their birthday “Jewishly,” and offered the following recommendations:


– Increase in charity before Shacharit and Minchah of your birthday. If your birthday takes place on Shabbat or on a Jewish holiday (when it is forbidden to handle money), the charity should be given before and after the Shabbat or holiday.


– All the daily prayers should be recited with increased intensity and concentration. Read at least one (of the five) books of Psalms on the birthday.


– Study the chapter of Psalms for your new year. This is your age plus one; i.e. if you are turning 32 (thus entering the 33rd year of life), you should study chapter 33. This chapter is also recited every day during the following year. Click here for a translated Book of Psalms along with Rashi’s commentary.


– Add an extra study session, both in the revealed part of Torah and in Chassidut.


– Study (by heart, if possible) a Chassidic discourse (or part thereof), and deliver its message to your friends on the birthday or at the earliest appropriate occasion. The Seudah Shlishit of the following Shabbat is an auspicious time to observe this custom.


– On this day, attempt to increase your positive influence on others – sharing Torah and Chassidut with fellow Jews.


– Sometime in the course of the day, seclude yourself in a private area and make a general reckoning of the past year. Resolve to correct those areas which require improvement, and make productive resolutions for the upcoming year.


– Resolve to be more meticulous in the observance of a particular Mitzvah during the course of the upcoming year.


– Arrange a joyous gathering (“party”) with friends, family and acquaintances, and publicly thank G-d for all He has given you.


– It is recommended to eat a new fruit1 on the birthday. This allows you to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing on your special day.


– For men: Receive an Aliyah on the Shabbat before your birthday (unless the birthday is on the Shabbat itself, in which case you would receive the aliyah on your birthday). If the birthday is on a day when the Torah is read, such as Monday, Thursday or Rosh Chodesh, an aliyah should be received on that day as well.


This section is dedicated to Rebbitzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn – wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe – whose birthday is on the 25th of Adar. The Rebbe inaugurated his “birthday awareness campaign” on her birthday, shortly after her passing in 1988. May her saintly memory be a blessing for all.

Footnotes

  • 1. A 'new fruit' is a fruit eaten for the first time during that season.
TAGS: birthday

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Shehecheyanu
A blessing recited on joyous occasions. The blessing thanks G-d for "sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion."
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Chassidut
The teachings of the Chassidic masters. Chassidut takes mystical concepts such as G-d, the soul, and Torah, and makes them understandable, applicable and practical.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Aliyah
Literally means to rise up. Has two popular meanings: 1. Being called up to the Torah scroll and recite the blessings when the Torah is being read. 2. To emigrate to the Holy Land.
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Seudah Shlishit
The third meal of the Sabbath. This meal, customarily much lighter than the previous two, is eaten on Sabbath afternoon.
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, spiritual leader of the worldwide Chabad movement.
Psalms
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.