The present of a new life is a special gift to any family no matter what the religious beliefs, but it is always nice to give something that ties in with the beliefs of the family and carries on the traditions in which the child will be brought up. Traditionally, having children is seen as a religious obligation as well as a joyful experience so it is a time of celebration as well as prayer. There are many traditonal Jewish baby gifts that are given to Jewish babies and include Hamsas, Mezuzahs, dreidels, lilah tov lights, kiddush cups and tzedakah boxes. I will be discussing the significance of each of these in the following paragraphs.
Hamsa is a symbol that is used in the Jewish culture and is usually in the shape of a hand. The hand is usually depicted with the five fingers outstretched, but can also be seen with the forefinger and the third finger together and the ring finger and the little finger together to form the Hebrew letter “shin” and depict the same position of the Cohen’s fingers when he is blessing the congregation. According to Jewish legend, the Hamsa is the Hand of Miriam, the sister of Moses. It is also referred to as the Hand of God. It is thought to possess magical powers of protection, happiness and prosperity. Hamsa pacifier holders make wonderful baby gifts.
On the doorpost of most Jewish homes you will see a Mezuzah. This is a small container that usually contains a parchment scroll that is handwritten with the words of the Shema on one side and a name of God on the back. Upon entering the home the mezuzah is touched and the fingers that touched it are kissed to remind us that we should always follow God’s commandments. A popular Jewish baby gift is a Noah’s Ark or other soft toy with a Mezuzah on it.
Tzedakah boxes are a popular gift for babies. Tzedakah means charity or justice. It is treating others the way that you would want to be treated. The tzedakah box usually ehibits the eight different levels of charity; giving, but not being happy about it, giving less than you should, giving only when asked, giving directly to the poor so that both know each other, giving with the poor knowing who gave the gift but the giver does not know who receives it, giving so that the giver knows but the recipient does not, giving anonymously to a tzedakah fund and, last, giving to help keep another person from becoming poor by contributing to their education or teaching them a trade.
Kiddush is a prayer of thanksgiving and reminds all to keep the Sabbath day. This is a traditional prayer and is done with wine and bread to give thanks to God for all of his blessings.
Lilah Tov means good night and many popular baby gifts are imprinted with the words. Night lights are extremely popular as well as blankets and night gowns. These items are very popular with people searching for Jewish baby gifts.
The dreidel is a popular toy for girls and boys. It is usually played with at Hanukkah. It has hebrew letters on each side (nun, gimel, hei and shin) which put together are the acronym for Nes Gadol Haya Sham meaning “a great miracle happened there”.