Question: Is Rabbi Needed for Jewish Girl Baby's Hebrew Naming Ceremony?
Must a rabbi conduct a baby naming ceremony? Can my husband and I have our daughter's baby naming ceremony on our own with family and friends? I attended a naming ceremony and do not understand the need to pay a rabbi an outrageous amount of money for his presence.
Answer: Dear Friend,
The tradition of naming a child is generally held for a boy at the brit milah and in the synagogue at the Torah for a girl. Today, many Jews have moved for a less formal moment for the naming of a girl, although a boy is still named at the brit milah.
Yes, a naming ceremony is often held today in the home, and there exist outlines and "scripts" with which a family can conduct their own naming. It is valid in that the name doesn't become a real issue until it is needed for Jewish legal instances, e.g. being called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah or even more importantly when the name is written in the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract.
Why involve a Rabbi? Very often Rabbinic assistance is helpful, if only to choose a name, and that includes avoiding errors - using a boy's name for a girl - as well as modern Israeli names that are especially beautiful in Hebrew.
Secondly, Rabbis love to be involved with young families, and especially so when the grandparents of the baby are congregants as well. I don't know what you encountered, but in my own experience there are no "outrageous" fees - if there are any fees at all.
Lastly, if a family chooses not to be part of the Jewish community and support the synagogue, very often in those instances the congregation will ask for a contribution as they have made possible the availability of a Rabbi and even a sanctuary where the naming can take place at the Torah.
The Jewish community, in my opinion, is too rapidly in too many locations becoming a service station mentality which is so sad. Instead of a community that supports each other's joys and softens each other's pains, instead of a nurturing intellectual sharing, instead of a combined strength in the face of occasional confrontation with anti-semitism - rather it is becoming a place where one drives in, asks for a "fill up" and then complains about the high cost of the fuel that keeps the tradition and the family alive and going.
I would encourage you to speak with the local Rabbi of your choice. All of my friends and colleagues would be delighted to share in the simcha of a new Jewish life and fees are the last thing on our minds!
Mazal Tov and congratulations,