“Why should I have a baby naming? If my child is five years old, is it too late to have a baby naming ceremony?”
It is never too late to have a naming ceremony. What is a naming? It is an opportunity for parents to welcome their child into the loving circle of family and friends. It is an occasion to reflect on the values of parents and grandparents and to begin to write a new chapter in the family history. Very often the names chosen for the child, in Hebrew and English reflect memories of departed relatives and the naming responds to the impulse to honor those who were significant influences in the lives of parents and grandparents. This is also a time for the parents to state clearly the values that are important to them and to articulate their wishes for their child and the course they plan to set for their family.
In formal religious terms, the ceremony marks the entry of the child into the covenant. The Hebrew word “Brit/Bris” is the ceremony where a young boy is named, as he is circumcised and brought into this covenant—typically on the eighth day counting from the day of birth. For girls, tradition requires only a ritual of words and blessings, and the timing varies, as some families choose to name their daughters on the eighth or thirtieth day after birth, and some much later, both for boys and girls. The essence of the covenant idea is that the relationship between God and the Jewish people is a sacred pact, that is characterized by terms of endearment—love and mutual responsibility. That is seen as the model for all committed and loving relationships, between married partners as well as between a child and his or her parents.
We often also speak of a second biblical covenant, between God and all creation. This is often invoked as well at a naming ceremony. Sometimes it is not possible for parents to consider all of these themes until they have some parenting experience under their belts, and the meaning of the decisions they have made to bring a child into the world and to raise him or her within a religious tradition need time to unfold. While the “welcoming” theme can be expressed anytime, the “covenant” theme of the naming may take some more thought—especially for couples struggling with interfaith issues. So whenever the parents are ready is the right time!
Rabbi David Kudan is the rabbi at Temple Tifereth Israel, a Reform congregation in Malden, and at Congregation Agudas Achim – Ezrath Israel, aka The Bryant Street Shul, an unaffiliated Jewish community in Malden rooted in the traditions of the Conservative Movement.