“Is there anything in Jewish tradition about losing baby teeth? Prayers, folk stories or customs? My 6-year-old wanted to know if there is a Jewish tooth fairy.”

Thank you,
Sharon Fineberg

Photo used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user ooh_food
Photo used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user ooh_food

Dear Sharon,

While many cultures have different traditions about losing baby teeth, Judaism has not traditionally marked this childhood experience. However, that wouldn’t necessarily imply that there is no Jewish tooth fairy. If, in fact, multiple tooth fairies carry out this particular duty, it seems reasonable to assume that among the multitudes of tooth fairies visiting children around America, at least a few are Jewish!

From my own experience, I have learned that Jewish tooth fairies do not appreciate skepticism. My mother recently showed me an exchange of notes that I had with the Tooth Fairy when I was about 8 years old. Apparently I had been heard to doubt the Tooth Fairy’s existence, the result being that no money was left under my pillow; in its place was a note chastising me for my disbelief. I then had to write a note in response, professing my sincere conviction that the Tooth Fairy did indeed exist. Apparently that did the trick, as the exchange ended, and I got my quarter (and a complete set of adult teeth). From this I would surmise that it is entirely possible to engage—and perhaps even bargain with—the Jewish tooth fairy, and that, in good Jewish form, dialogue and debate are always encouraged.

If you are seeking a new Jewish ritual around losing baby teeth, I encourage you to visit Ritualwell.org, a wonderful source of contemporary rituals and created at: 2012-04-18resources for all manner of life-cycle events. There you’ll find a few suggestions for blessings and related practices to make the moment of losing a tooth an opportunity to instill Jewish values.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer is the rabbi at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, a Reconstructionist synagogue in West Newton.