HaBat (The Gift Of The Girl)
"God Has Granted Me a Gift"
The Zeved HaBat is a ritual that has its origins in Sephardic and Italian Jewish customs dating back to the seventeenth century. The name of the ceremony is derived from the Hebrew verse in Genesis 30:20 in which Leah has already given birth to Zebulon, and preceding the birth of her daughter Dinah. Leah says, "Zevadani Elohim Oti Zeved Tov (God has granted me a gift)."
The name Zebulon is derived from the word Zeved, meaning gift or dowry. Thus, Zeved HaBat is "Gift of a Daughter." There are special melodies sung at the ceremony and verses from the Song of Songs are recited by the guests. In some Sephardic communities the ceremony is called, "Las Fadas." The name is thought to derive from a Spanish word for fairies: "Hadas," because of the Spanish belief that babies are blessed by beneficent fairies.
A Veil of Silk Covers the Heads of Both Mother and Baby
At the ceremony, guests partake of a festive feast during which the rabbi takes the baby girl on his lap, recites a blessing, and announces her name. The baby is passed from guest to guest, each guest giving the baby an individual blessing. In Turkish Jewish communities, a veil of embroidered silk covers the heads of both mother and baby until the name is announced. After the naming, the mother wears the veil in public until such time as her daughter marries, when the daughter inherits and wears the Las Fadas veil.
In various Italian and Sephardic prayer books, there is a wonderful invocation (Misheberach) also dating back to the seventeenth century that is recited during the naming and which invokes the Biblical matriarchs and other important women from Jewish texts. The English translation of this recitation reads as follows:
May the One who blessed our mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Abigail, and Queen Esther; the daughter of Avichail bless also this pleasant baby. May her name be called.....daughter of.....with good luck at a blessed time. And may she grow with health, peace, and contentment. May her father and mother merit the sight of her happiness as she stands beneath the bridal canopy.
This evocative prayer is preceded by the following verses from the Song of Songs:
"O my dove in the rocky clefts,
In the covert of terrace high,
Let me see thy countenance,
Let me hear thy voice,
For sweet is thy voice,
And thy countenance comely."
Other verses are added when the baby girl is the firstborn from her mother.