Why don’t many Jewish couples have baby showers or buy things for their baby ahead of time? I also heard that you shouldn’t congratulate a Jewish woman on her pregnancy…is that true?

I’m glad you asked these questions. While pregnancy is a wonderfully exciting time for any family, it can bring up many questions.

created at: 2013-08-20The reason many couples elect not to have baby showers or buy things for their baby ahead of time is that they are likely concerned with superstition, or the “evil eye.” The evil eye has deep roots in the Jewish tradition—it’s the idea that celebrating something we anticipate before it happens, such as a shower before a baby is born, might “cause” something bad to happen to the mother or baby. This is one of the reasons the traditional way to congratulate a Jewish woman on her pregnancy is to say “B’sha’ah tovah” (“In good time”), as opposed to “Mazel tov” (“Congratulations”). In this way, one is avoiding the evil eye by wishing with the future parents that things will unfold as they should. When the happy and healthy baby arrives, wishing someone mazel tov is perfectly appropriate.

Although many Jewish couples choose not to have baby showers or buy things for their baby ahead of the birth because of this superstition, there are certain things expectant parents need to purchase before the baby arrives, such as a car seat, which you need to take the baby home from the birth setting. Some couples will only buy these necessities but not open them until the birth, and some won’t buy anything at all until the baby arrives.

That being said, there are many couples who do choose to ignore the evil eye, or deal with it differently. In “The New Jewish Baby Book,” which I highly recommend, author Anita Diamant offers a number of suggestions for families who choose to have a celebration of their pregnancy.

This October, God willing, my wife and I will welcome our first child. While we have a strong awareness of the Jewish perspective on the evil eye, we have found that there are just some things we need to help us prepare for this new addition to our family. But we also plan on delaying the opening and setting up of certain things until the ninth month, if we can.
Ultimately couples must make their own choices based on what they are comfortable with, but parents-to-be should feel comfortable knowing there is a diversity of opinion on the subject.

created at: 2013-08-20Rabbi Philip Sherman is an assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Elohim, a Reform synagogue in Wellesley.

For additional resources on pregnancy and birth ceremonies, please visit InterfaithFamily.