Laws relevant to the newborn

* This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

Laws relevant to the newborn:

A. Making your child’s room into a Mikdash Me’at:[1]

Even today, every Jew is obligated to make for himself a dwelling place for G-d within his home. This obligation is relevant even for children, and even for a newborn baby. It can be accomplished by placing inside the babies room a book of Chumash, a Siddur, and a charity box. These books should be personally purchased on behalf of the child and be considered as his. To sanctify the room, one should try to study some amount daily from the child’s Chumash, and to pray or say blessing from the child’s Siddur, and to give charity in his charity box.

B. Learning Torah near child:[2]

Hearing words of Torah has a great impact on the soul of the child from the moment that he is born. After the mother of Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Chanania gave birth to him, she permanently placed his crib in the hall of study to him for him to only hear words of Torah, and for this reason she had a very holy child who was a great Torah scholar. Accordingly, one should study Torah near his child in order so his ears hear words of Torah.

C. Pesukim in the home of the Yoledes:[3]

After the birth of a boy[4], prior to the circumcision, it is customary to have children visit the home of the Yoledes and recite various verses of Scripture. This is customarily done each night, and especially on the night prior to the circumcision. The children are to recite while present the verses of Kerias Shema, Hamalach Hagoel, the 12 Pesukim and statements of the sages. The children are given refreshments or treats for the occasion.

D. Letter in Sefer Torah:[5]

One is to purchase a letter in the Torah scroll that is written specifically on behalf of children on behalf of each of his children.[6] It can be purchased from the moment the child is born. The price of each letter is one dollar. The child is to be sent a certificate of his purchase by the committee. The certificate should contain the name of the child as well as the weekly portion that his letter was purchased in.

E. Kissing the Mezuzah before sleep:[7]

Prior to retiring to one’s bed for the night one is to touch [and kiss] the Mezuzah.[8] Thus, it is customary in all Jewish homes for children to kiss the Mezuzah of their room prior to going to sleep. This internalizes the idea that Hashem watches and guards over them. [Doing so enters Kedusha into the child from a young age and assists him in his service of G-d in the future.[9]]

F. Lullabies:[10]

Immoral or improper lyrics: One is to greatly beware that even an infant does not listen to forbidden gentile music [i.e. songs that contain immoral or improper lyrics,] as it will have a negative effect on his character.[11] The child’s soul understands the words and internalizes them, hence having an effect on him when he is older.[12] Certainly, the mother or other caretaker is not to sing forbidden songs, as these words of song create an evil spirit which then resides on the child.[13]

Gentile, but proper, lyrics: The above prohibition only applies towards songs that contain immoral or improper lyrics, and does not negate the singing of gentile melodies used as lullabies. Nevertheless, the Poskim[14] conclude that one is not to sing any gentile lullabies to infants and is rather to sing lullabies that contain words of Torah and holiness, such as Torah Is Der Besta Sechora, and Kamataz Alef Ah and the like.[15] One is to sing ethical songs dealing with the garden of Eden, or the future judgment in front of G-d.[16]

G. Modeh Ani-Saying Modeh Ani with infant:[17]

It is the custom of righteous women to recite Modeh Ani on behalf of, and together with, their baby even prior to him learning how to speak.[18] Even those who don’t do so, are nonetheless accustomed to teach the child to say Modeh Ani starting from when the child learns how to speak.[19] Certainly, from age 3 and onwards every parent is to make sure that their child says Modeh Ani upon awakening.[20]


H. Washing hands in the morning:[21]

It is customary not to be careful to wash the hands of children upon awakening, until they reach the age of Chinuch.[22] [However once the child has reached the age of Chinuch one must be careful to educate them to wash hands after awakening in the morning.[23]] (Furthermore, one who is careful to wash their hands from the day of the child’s circumcision and onwards is doing an act of holiness[24].)[25] [Practically, the Poskim[26] rule that one is to beware to wash a child’s hands in the morning. This applies even if the child is of a very young age such as a nursing baby.[27] Doing so is a good Segula that one’s children grow up with purity and holiness.[28] The Rebbe Rashab[29] wrote that one is to be careful to begin washing a child’s hand starting from when the child is no longer in diapers. The Rebbe[30] stated that one is to be careful in washing hands starting at the very least from age three.]


What is the age of Chinuch regarding the obligation to wash hands?[31]

As already stated, it is best to wash the hands of children even before they reach the age of Chinuch. Once the child has reached the age of Chinuch he must be educated to wash hands in the morning.[32] The age of Chinuch in this regard is from when the child begins to understand the concept of washing hands to remove impurity. Every child is different in this regard.

Must children be careful in the pre-washing restrictions prior to washing?[33]

Until the age of Chinuch[34] they do not have to be careful to follow the pre-washing restrictions. [The age of Chinuch in this regard is seemingly from the time they need to begin washing as explained above.[35]] Nevertheless, one who is careful to avoid letting them touch food until they wash is doing an act of holiness.

Should girls have their hands washed prior to the age of Chinuch just like was said by boys?[36]

Seemingly, it is proper to begin washing the hands of girls from the time the name is given. There is room to learn that it is proper to begin washing their hands even beforehand, starting from the day of birth.



Until the child reaches the age of education there is no obligation to wash the child’s hands, although one who does so starting from the day of the Bris, is doing a holy act. Once the child has reached the age of Chinuch he must wash his hands. [The Rebbe Rashab wrote one is to be careful to wash the hands of the child starting from when the child is out of diapers. The Rebbe stated that one is to be careful in this starting at the very least from age three.]

  Sparks of Kabala Washing the hands of one’s children even of nursing age is a Segula that they grow up with purity and holiness.[37]  

I. Washing Neigal Vaaser for baby before nursing:[38]

Unlike the morning washing that takes place upon awakening from sleep, there is no source for being particular to washing the baby’s hands each time prior to nursing, and on the contrary, one should not be particular to do so. [The rumors existing regarding such a practice being followed by the Rebbe’s mother with regards to the Rebbe, are not fully accurate. While indeed the Rebbe’s mother washed the Rebbe’s hands upon him awakening from sleep in order to nurse, she did not do so prior to him nursing every time.[39] The washing was related to the rebbe’s sleep, and not to the Rebbe’s nursing.]

  Fighting and quarreling in the home of a newborn:[40]

Quarrelling and fighting in the home of a woman after birth causes a danger to the newborn child.

Crossdressing-Correct Gender corresponding garments for a newborn:[41]

One must beware to garb a newborn starting from the moment of birth with gender correct clothing. If one wraps a male newborn with female clothing upon birth, then he may end up being promiscuous. So too, vice a versa, if one wraps a female newborn with male clothing upon birth then she may end up becoming a prostitute.

Guarding the newborn from lightning and thunder:[42]

If a child is born with a skin membrane covering his head, then he needs to be guarded from lightning and thunder.

M. Non-Kosher animals:[43]

One is to be careful not to show the newborn child any non-Kosher imagery, such as impure, Non-Kosher, animals.[44] Accordingly upon giving or purchasing a toy for a child, it should not be in the shape or figure of a non-Kosher animal, bird, fish etc, but is rather to be of only a pure species. Likewise, when the child gets older and is taught the alphabet using the figure of animals, he is to only be taught using pictures of pure species. The one exception to this is regarding pictures of figures that are written about in Tanach, in which the children may be shown the impure species described in Scripture in order to understand the material. Likewise, the above does not negate those synagogues which are accustomed to have paintings and inscriptions of various animal such as a lion and the like, being that the purpose of this is for a spiritual message.[45]

Quieting a laughing baby:[46]

A person who sees a baby laughing in the middle of sleep, is to use this finger to flick at his nose [and quiet him down], as this is a sign that Lilis is playing with the child. The same applies when the baby begins laughing on his own while awake without any instigation. This especially applies on the night of Rosh Chodesh.


It is considered a danger for a baby to place metal into their mouth.

Segulos for preventing crib death:

Not to nurse the child:[48] A woman of whom it has been established by doctors that her milk is poisonous and is damaging to her child, then she is not a nurse her child and is rather to hire a wetnurse. [Indeed, there was once a woman who came to a Tzadik and Rebbe crying before him that both of her sons were born mute, and he told her that she should stop nursing her children as it is her milk which is causing this to happen.[49]]

To move to a different country:[50] A person who has had a few of his children pass away, is to move to a different country, as it could be that the country causes the death.

To sell the child:[51] A person who has had a few of his children pass away, is to sell his child to his friend for a small amount of money or food. This is done by the father being given money or food from an individual and in exchange the individual is considered to have purchased the child.

Naming after the deceased child:[52] The following Segula was given by the famous Gaon of Vilna to his daughter who had a child pass away shortly after birth. He instructed that the child that is born after the child that passed away should be named after him, with another additional name, preceding the newer name to the name of the sibling. For example, if the name of the child who died was Reuven, then the next child should be called Shimon Reuven. Indeed, the daughter of the Gaon of Vilna had a son named Dovber who passed away, and based on the advice of her father named her second son Zalman Ber, and he lived a full life. This tradition has been followed by many and their other children have lived.

Garbing the child in a pure linen garment:[53] A father who has had a number of children pass away due to Lilith or the evil spirit is to garb his newborn child with only linen garments. If the linen garment has even a single threat of another material, then it is not to be used.


[1] See Likkutei Sichos Vol. 36 Sicha 1; Sefer Hasichos 5747 1:327; Likkutei Sichos 26:420; Shevach Habris 3:9

[2] See and Rav Ovadia Bartenura on Avos 2:8; Yerushalmi Yevamos 1:6; Pela Yoeitz Erech Yonkei Shadayim; Shevach Habris 3:8

[3] Chosem Kodesh 9:6; Bris Avos Kuntrus Leil Shimurim 13; Zocher Habris 3:14; Shevach Habris 2:6; Chinuch book by Hartman

[4] It is not customary to do so after the birth of a girl.

[5] See Sichos 11th-13th Nissan 5741; Likkutei Sichos Nitzavim Vol. 24 Sicha 2; Likkutei Sichos 23:17 Shavuos 1; Sichos Kodesh 5728 1:382, printed in Shulchan Menachem 1:22; 6:191; Michaber Y.D. 270:2; Rambam Sefer Torah 6:1; Rava Sanhedrin 21b; See Nitei Gavriel Sefer Torah chapters 1-6Shevach Habris 3:10


[7] Toras Menachem 5747 2:647; Sefer Hasichos 1992 p. 89; Likkutei Dibburim Likkut 32 Vol. 4 p. 784 “When I was three years old twice a day, in the morning upon awakening and at night upon going to sleep, my mother would lift me up to kiss the Mezuzah.; Shevach Habris 3:7

[8] Kitzur SHU”A 71:4 “Prior to going to bed one is to walk to the Mezuzah and place his hands on it and say “Hashem Shomri…”

[9] See Likkutei Dibburim Likkut 32 for a fascinating story on this matter!

[10] Shevach Habris 3:6

[11] Sefer Chassidim 238; Shlah; Shevet Mussar 24; Sifrei Mussar; Mamar Mordechai 560:1; Kaf Hachaim 560:29; Shaar Hatziyon 560:25

[12] Toras Menachem 1987 2:647

[13] Shevet Mussar 24

[14] See Shevet Mussar 24; Toras Menachem 5742 4:2124; 5747 2:647; 5752 2:263

[15] Rebbe ibid

[16] Shevet Mussar 24

[17] Toras Menachem 5742 2:816; 5749 2:37; Shevach Habris 3:35

[18] Toras Menachem 5749 2:37

[19] Toras Menachem 5742 2:816 that so is the custom today of all Israel

[20] Toras Menachem 5742 2:816; See Igros Kodesh Rayatz 2:438; Brought in Hayom Yom 4th Iyar; Sefer Haminhagim p. 87; Igros Kodesh 5:21

[21] Based on Basra 4:2 regarding children touching food as seemingly the intent of Admur there is with regards to washing their hands and not simply to not let them touch food. So also understands Kaf Hachaim 4:22; See Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 54:16; Shevach Habris 3:4

[22] Basra 4:2; So brings also P”M 4 M”Z 7 that the world is not accustomed to be careful to wash the hands of children. He however does not differentiate between whether the child has reached the age of Chinuch or not.

The reason for the leniency: As the G-dly soul only completely and mainly enters into a person when he reaches the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah, and it is for this reason that when they reach this age they become Biblically obligated to keep the commands, and are punished for transgression. Now the beginning of the entrance of the G-dly soul into a child’s body is from the age that the Sages obligated the child to be educated in Torah and Mitzvos. [Basra ibid; Thus before the age of Chinuch, since the G-dly soul has not even begun to enter their body, this impurity does not desire to seek nurture in their bodies upon them sleeping].

[23] See previous footnote

[24] lit. “Kadosh Yomar Lo”

[25] Parentheses in original

The reason: As in truth the G-dly soul begins to enter into the child’s body from the day of his Bris Milah. [Admur ibid; Thus the evil spirit has reason to reside in his body when sleeping starting from after the Milah.]

[26] Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 10; Kaf Hachaim 4:22; P”M 4 M”Z 7: “It is proper to wash their hands every morning as Sakana is more severe than even prohibitions”. Chida in Moreh Baetzba 2:60: “It is proper to wash the hands of the small children properly in order to prevent them from placing impurity on all the items they touch.”

[27] Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 10

[28] Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 10 in name of Chesed Lialafim 13; Kaf Hachaim 4:22

[29] The will of the Rebbe Rashab to the general public printed in Ishkavta Direbbe p. 136

[30] Toras Menachem 7 [1953]  p. 194

[31] Admur 343:3

[32] It is a Rabbinical command for a father to educate his son and daughter in both negative and positive commands, beginning from when the child reaches the age of education. [ibid]

[33] Ashel Avraham Butchach 4; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4:8; See also Admur Basra 4:2; Divrei Yatziv 1:1; Tzitz Eliezer 21:20; Mishneh Halachos 7:1

[34] See Ashel Avraham ibid that possibly until the age of Bar Mitzvah one does not have to be careful in the above.

[35] Vetzaruch Iyun as the age of education differs between positive and negative commands. Washing the hands is considered a positive command while not touching orifices is like a negative command.

[36] Based on Likkutei Sichos 14 p. 250; Toras Menachem 5750 Vol. 3 p. 364; See Shulchan Menachem 5 p. 158-159 [Shaareiy Halacha Uminhag 3 p. 297] Darkei Chaim Veshalom 219

Background: Admur in Basra 4:2 states that it is proper to begin washing the hands of a child from the time of his Bris being that at that time the G-dly soul begins to enter. No mention is made regarding when the G-dly soul begins to enter a girl and consequently from when it is proper to begin washing the hands of a girl. Chazal state [Avoda Zara 27a] that a girl is considered already circumcised. The intent of this is that the moment a girl is born she is already considered circumcised. [Likkutei Sichos ibid; Igros Kodesh 22 p. 260] Thus the G-dly soul begins to enter a girl as soon as she is born, just as we say regarding a boy on the day of his Bris. Nevertheless perhaps the actual entrance is when she is given a name. [Likkutei Sichos ibid] The reason for this is because the letters of a name is what connects the soul to the body. [Toras Menachem ibid] It is for this reason that we are particular to name a girl at the first opportunity, at the first available Kerias Hatorah, and do not delay it at all as is the custom of others, as who has the right to delay the soul from entering. [Shulchan Menachem ibid; Darkei Chaim Veshalom ibid] From the above it is implied that just like by a boy one begins to wash his hands starting from the day of the Bris, so too by a girl one is to begin washing the hands from the day her name is given, and perhaps even beforehand starting from the day she is born.

[37] Ben Ish Chaiy Toldos 10 in name of Chesed Lialafim.

[38] See Admur Basra 4:2; 158:11;

[39] Toldos Levi Yitzchak 2:30; [Unlike what writes Professor Branover in Beiyn Halev p. 43 for which I have found no source; nor like Rav Yosef Hartman in Keitzad Nichaneich Es Yiladeinu p. 210 who goes as far as to suggest that perhaps even Admur Hazakein intended to say that one should wash even before eating food and nursing. This to me is completely negated and makes no sense neither to say in Admur nor in the tradition of the Rebbe’s parents. To note that he quotes the tradition in name of Rav Rav Shalom Vilenker from the Sefer Toldos Levi Yitzchak p. 153. I have not found this on the page he quoted, and the Sefer Toldos Levi Yitzchak specifically writes as we stated above.]

The rumor regarding the Rebbe: Chassidim record in the name of Rav Levi Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Chanah that the Rebbetzin was accustomed to wash his hands each time prior to nursing the Rebbe. Some even say that this was a directive of the Rebbe Rashab. There are no known written records on the subject from either of the Rebbe’s parents and hence we have to judge based on what Chassidim have testified to have heard from them.

The questions: In general, the entire concept seems puzzling, as we all know that a) the Jewish custom is not to be particular for a child to wash his hands for bread until he reaches a certain age. b) even after he reaches that age, Halacha is only particular that one wash his hands for actual bread and not for any other food. In fact, one who washes his hands for other foods besides bread is considered arrogant and it is a discouraged act. So, this custom seems to make no sense! Likewise, there is no firsthand testimony which claims to have heard from the Rebbe’s parents that this matter was a directive of the Rebbe Rashab.

The true tradition: Seemingly however the answer to this lies within the testimony of Rav Yitzchak Goldshmitd who transmitted what he personally heard from the Rebbetzin Chana that her husband [and not the Rebbe Rashab] instructed her to wash his hands every time he wakes up from sleep in order to nurse, starting from the day of birth. This falls right in line with the ruling of Admur in his Shulchan Aruch Basra 4:2 that whoever is particular to wash the hands of a baby who awakens from sleep from the day of the circumcision is called holy. Thus, we can conclude that the hands were washed only after waking up from sleep, and not necessarily prior to each time that he ate. In other words, the washing has nothing to do with washing for bread but rather with washing from after sleep which is something that we all do today.

A mistaken custom: Accordingly, those mothers who are particular to wash their child’s hands before they eat anything in order to follow the custom of the Rebbe’s parents are seemingly following a mistaken custom, not to mention that as a known rule we’re not meant to copy the personal Hanhagos of the Rabbeim, and there’s no greater proof of this than in this case where the Rebbetzin concludes and testifies that this was only done by the Rebbe and not by any of their other sons.

[40] Reishis Chochma Shaar Hakedusha 16; Yosef Ometz in end; Tziporen Shamir 186; Kaf Hachaim 116:107; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 145:1; Nitei Gavriel 63:7; Shevach Habris 20:5

[41] Shelah Hakadosh; Shemiras Hanefesh 102; Kaf Hachaim 116:170; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 148:1; Nitei Gavriel 64:1

[42] Sefer Chassidim 469; Sefer Zechira; Shemiras Hanefesh 136; Kaf Hachaim 116:181; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 148:2

[43] See Kav Hayashar 2; Shevet Hamussar 24; Maagol Tov p. 56; Yeshuos Chochmah 33:11; Sefer Zechira; Sichos Kodesh Parshas Kedoshim 2:170; Hisvadyus 1984 20th Marchesvan 37; Likkutei Sichos 25:309; Toras Menachem 5750 3:179 “It has been spoken a number of times on the need to be careful not to look at toys and pictures of non-Kosher  animals in order so children only see pure and holy things. This is so important that this adherence begins as soon as the child is born and comes out to the air the world, in which case we immediately hang around the child matters of holiness and purity. Furthermore, this adherence begins even before the child is born during the pregnancy. As it is known that the custom of women while they are pregnant to be very careful not to see impure items but rather only pure and holy items”; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 237:2; See Megillah 28a; Shulchan Menachem 6:31; Shevach Habris 1:11

[44] The reason: As everything a child sees, even from a young age, is encrypted in his mind, and hence it is proper to abstain them from seeing anything which can ignite their Yetzer Hara when they are older. [see Kav Hayashar 2; Hisvadyus 1984 20th Marchesvan 37]

[45] Likkutei Sichos 25:309

[46] Devash Lifi of Chida Mareches Yud 18; Shemiras Hanefesh 287; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 149; Nitei Gavriel 64:7

[47] Sefer Zechira; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 148:3

[48] Chacham Tzevi 64; Chasam Sofer E.H. 136; Shemiras Hanefesh 18; Kaf Hachaim 116:136

[49] Shemiras Hanefesh 18; Kaf Hachaim 116:136

[50] Sefer Chassidim 246; Kaf Hachaim 116:137; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 199:1

[51] Sefer Chassidim 245; Shemiras Hanefesh 179; Kaf Hachaim 116:137; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 199:2

[52] Zivcheiy Tzedek 116:83; Rav Dovid Luria in Aliyos Eliyahu 51; Kaf Hachaim 116:135

[53] Pischeiy Teshuvah 352:2; Yalkut HaReuveini Parshas Mikeitz; Kaf Hachaim 116:138

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.