Shalom Zachar-The Laws & Customs

1. Shalom Zachar:[1]

It is customary to host a festive meal on Friday night after the birth of a male child.[2] People come and eat some food near the baby.  [It is customary to announce in Shul after the Friday night prayers the Shalom Zachar event that will be taking place that night.[3]]

Its name: This meal is known as a Shalom Zachor.[4] In the Talmud it was referred to as a “Bei Shavua Haben,” or “Bei Yeshua Haben.”[5] It is called by this name because when a child is born he is saved from his mother’s womb.[6] The Alter Rebbe refers to it as a Seudas Ben Zachar.[7]

Seudas Mitzvah:[8] The Shalom Zachar meal is considered a Seudas Mitzvah.

Where is the meal to take place?[9] The Shalom Zachar meal is to take place at the location where the newborn is found that Friday night. [Thus, if the mother and newborn is staying by her parents on Friday night, then the Shalom Zachar should take place in the home of her parents and not in the family home. Likewise, it should take place in the family home and not in shul. Accordingly, if the baby will remain in the hospital over Shabbos, then the Shalom Zachar should take place in the hospital and not in the home of the family. Practically, however, the custom is not to be particular in this matter and to make the Shalom Zachar in the family home even if the mother is still in the hospital with the newborn.[10] Likewise, many choose to make the Shalom Zachar in Shul even though the baby is at home.[11]]

The menu:[12] It is not customary to serve bread for this meal [as it takes place after the Friday night meal in which everyone already ate bread and recited Birchas Hamazon].[13] It is customary to serve Mezonos products as well as fruits[14], as well as nuts[15] and legumes, including lentils.[16] It is customary to serve the legumes prior to serving the fruits.[17] [Today the custom is to serve chickpeas[18], alcoholic beverages, and beer by the Shalom Zachar.]

When is the Shalom Zachar to take place? The Shalom Zachar is to take place on the first Shabbos after the birth of the male child.[19] This applies even if the circumcision will be delayed past the eighth day due to medical reasons, nevertheless, the Shalom Zachar is to take place on the first Shabbos after the birth and not on the Shabbos prior to the delayed circumcision.[20] [The custom is to cater this meal after the Shabbos Friday night meal.[21]]

Born on Friday night:[22] If the child was born on Friday night, towards the start of the night, then some Poskim[23] rule that the Shalom Zachar is to take place on that Friday night and only if it takes place then is it considered a Seudas Mitzvah.[24] However, if it takes place the next Friday night then it is not considered a Seudas Mitzvah.[25] Other Poskim[26], however, rule that it is a take place on the next Friday night, and so is the practical custom.[27]

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[1] See Rama Y.D. 265:12; Luach Birchas Hanehnin 3:16; Shevach Habris 10; Pesakim Uteshuvos 265:40

[2] Rama Y.D. 265:12; Bava Kama 80a and Tosafus ibid in name of Rabbeinu Tam; Terumas Hadeshen 1:269; Orchos Chaim Hilchos Mila;Levush 265:12

The reason for the meal: The reason behind this meal and its attendance by people in the community is because the child is considered like a mourner being that he was forced to forget all of his Torah knowledge which he was taught in his mother’s womb. Accordingly, a mourner’s meal is served and people come to comfort the child. [Taz 265:13 in name of Derisha 264 in end, in name of Teshuvas Rav Menachem] Alternatively, it is a Thanksgiving meal that takes place for the child being saved and peacefully exiting his mother’s womb. [Tosafus Bava Kama ibid; Terumas Hadeshen ibid; Levush ibid; Rashal in Yam Shel Shlomo Bava Kama 80a] Alternatively, the purpose of the meal is to remind the soul of the child of the oath that he took prior to being born that he would be righteous and not wicked. Hence, the term Zachar in this regards means remembrance, and not male. The meal takes place on Shabbos being that this is the first mitzvah that the child is approached with. [Migdal Oz Beginning of Hilchos Mila; Chosem Kodesh 9:9; See Nida 30b; Tanya chapter 1]

The reason for Friday night: The meal takes place on Friday night being that that is when people are found in their home and are able to participate. [Taz 265:13 in name of Terumas Hadeshen] Alternatively, the reason is because the Midrash states that the reason that we do not circumcise prior to the eighth day is because God desired that at least one Shabbos pass during the child’s lifetime prior to him being circumcised. This is similar to a king who decreed that no guests will be entered into his presence until they meet with the Queen. So too, Hashem decreed that a sacrifice not be brought him until Shabbos passes. [Taz 265:13; Derech Pikudecha Mitzvah 2; Zohar 3 44a] Alternatively, the meal takes place on Shabbos being that this is the first mitzvah that the child is approached with and we desire to remind the child of the oath he took to be righteous and follow the mitzvot. [Chosem Kodesh 9:9] Alternatively, the reason is based on the custom to greet a Tzadik who arrives to a city, and hence we greet the child on Friday night as he is considered a Tzadik who is free of sin. [Bris Avos Kuntrus Mafteiach Kol Chaiy 43] See also Migdal Oz Pesicha of Hilchos Mila; Otzer Habris 2:2-3

The reason no meal is made for the birth of a daughter: Some explain the reason is because the main purpose of the meal is to remind the child of the oath that he took prior to being born that he would be righteous and not wicked. Now, only the male is given this oath, as the females is included within the male and hence is considered to have been given the oath when her male Zivug took the oath. Accordingly there is no need to make a remembrance meal for a female birth. [Migdal Oz Beginning of Hilchos Mila] Alternatively, the reason is because there is naturally less joy when a girl is born. [See Bava Basra 16b; Likkutei Sichos 32 p. 233]

[3] Noheg Katzon Yosef  Mila; Koreis Habris 265:68; Chosem Kodesh 9:7; Sefer Hasichos 5703 p. 154; Shevach Habris 10:6

[4] Chosem Kodesh 9:9; Sefer Hasichos 5703 p. 154 that so announced the Alter Rebbe by the Shalom Zachar of the Tzemach Tzedek,

The reason: The reason that this feast has been named Shalom Zachar is because part of the purpose of the meal is to remind the soul of the child of the oath that he took prior to being born that he would be righteous and not wicked. Hence, the term Zachar in this regards means remembrance, and not male. The meal takes place on Shabbos being that this is the first mitzvah that the child is approached with. [Chosem Kodesh 9:9]

[5] Bava Kama 80a

[6] Tosafus Bava Kama ibid

Other reasons: alternatively, it is called by this name because the term Shavua means oath and the purpose of this meal is to remind the child of the oath that he took prior to being born that he would be righteous and not wicked. [Chosem Kodesh 9:9]

[7] Luach Birchas Hanehnin 3:16

[8] Rama Y.D. 265:12; Terumas Hadeshen 1:269 in implication of Bava Kama 80a, Chulin 95b regarding Rav [see Or Zarua 2:107]; Levush 265:12;; Rashal in Yam Shel Shlomo Bava Kama 37; P”M 444 A”A 9; Kovetz Minhagim

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that the Shalom Zachar is not considered a Seudas Mitzvah. [Chavos Yair 70 in negation of proof of Teurmas Hadeshen ibid; See Otzer Habris 2:2-5]

[9] See Rama ibid “People come and eat some food near the baby.”; Taz ibid that the reason behind this meal and its attendance by people in the community is because the child is considered like a mourner and people come to comfort the child; Even Yisrael 2:1-1; Otzer Habris 2:7; Shevach Habris 10:5

[10] Otzer Habris ibid

[11] Otzer Habris ibid in Mahadura Tinyana; Sefer Hasichos 5703 p. 154 that so was the case with the Shalom Zachar of the Tzemach Tzedek, that it took place in the courtyard of the main Shul, and not inside the home.

[12] Shevach Habris 10:4

[13] However, see Sefer Hasichos 5703 p. 154 “On Erev Shabbos Shuva of the year 5550, the Alter Rebbe announced that he is inviting all of the members of the city and guests to a Shalom Zachar meal on behalf of his newborn grandson. The family and about 30 guests of the elder Chassidim were invited to wash their hands for the meal, while everyone else was invited to come after they finished their meal prior to reciting Birchas Hamazon, in which they would join in the eating of beans and lentils and then join the Zimun. The meal would take place in the large Shul in the courtyard.”

[14] See Rama Y.D. 265 in end; Chavos Yair 70; Migdal Oz Beginning of Hilchos Mila; Tehila Ledavid [Butchach] on Tehillim 104:14; Aruch Hashulchan 265:37

[15] See Tehila Ledavid ibid; Koreis Habris 265:68

The reason for eating nuts: The reason for eating nuts is because there is a verse in Shir Hashirim 6:17 which connects the Egoz to the Mitzvah of circumcision. [Otzer Habris 2:6]

[16] See Luach Birchas Hanehnin 3:16 “Therefore it is accustomed to first serve legumes by the meal which takes place for the birth of a son”; Tehila Ledavid ibid; Koreis Habris 265:68

The reason for eating lentils: The reason that lentils are served is because lentils is a food served to a mourner and according to some opinions [i.e. Taz 265], the reason behind this meal is in order to comfort the soul of the child who forgot all of his Torah learning after leaving his mother’s womb. [Koreis Habris 265:68 based on Derisha ibid] Alternatively, the reason is because lentils is a food of joy. [Tehila Ledavid ibid in name of Midrash Raba Toldos 63:19]

[17] See Luach Birchas Hanehnin 3:16 “Therefore it is accustomed to first serve legumes by the meal which takes place for the birth of a son”; See Shevach Habris 10 footnote 10 for a lengthy explanation by Rav M. Ashkenazi a”h.

[18] Shevach Habris 10:4

[19] See Rama ibid; Shevach Habris 10:1

[20] Os Shalom Munkatch 265:32; Shevach Habris 10:2 footnote 5 in name of Rav Leibel Groner that so directed the Rebbe

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that if the circumcision will be delayed past the eighth day due to medical reasons, then the Shalom Zachar is to take place on the Shabbos prior to the delayed circumcision and not on the first Shabbos after the birth. [Implication of Chochmas Adam 129:24; Kitzur SHU”A 163:8

[21] Shevach Habris 10:4

[22] See Shevach Habris 10:1

[23] P”M 444 M”Z 9; Likkutei Maharich Mila

[24] The reason: This is in order to give thanks to God for saving the child at the earliest possible opportunity. 

[25] P”M ibid

[26] Migdal Oz Pesicha Hilchos Mila 15; Korei Habris 265:68; Chosem Kodesh 9-10

[27] Koreis Habris ibid; Chosem Kodesh ibid; Zocher Habris 3:4-5; Bris Avos 46; Shevach Habris 10:3

The reason: 1) As it’s not possible to prepare a last-minute meal.  2) As a true Shavus Haben meal [which is how it is referred to in the Talmud] is specifically after a week has passed. 3) As some opinion say the Shavus Haben meal mentioned humbled, refers to the meal which takes place the night before the Bris. [Degul Merivav Y.D. 178]

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