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    The Jewish people have
    al-ways focused on
    birthdays. On Pesach,
    we celebrate the birth
    of the Jewish nation.
    We say in Mussaf that
    the world was created
    on Rosh H-shana.
    Many question whether
    making a birthday party
    is a Jewish custom.
    In-deed, there are customs for the day of a
    birthday which are not well known. In this
    issue we will discuss these issues and many
    Early Sources on non-Jewish Birthdays
    The only birthday party which is recorded in
    the Torah is that of Pharaoh. The posuk says,
    “It was on the third day, Pha-raoh’s birthday,
    that he made a party for all his servants…”
    Based on this, some poskim maintain that the
    custom to have a birthday party is in fact an

    issue of “fol-lowing in the ways of the non-
    Jews” and is not the practice of Jews. The

    Yerush-almi says that when Amalek attacked
    klal yisroel, they used warriors whose birthday
    was the same day.

    The Mishnah in Avodah Zarah says that non-
    Jews would celebrate the birthdays of their

    This has ramifications regarding Jewish
    people making birthday parties.
    Early Sources Regarding Birthdays The
    posuk in Hoshea says, “The day our king….”
    The Metzudas Dovid says that the custom of
    Jewish kings was to make a simcha and Yom
    Tov on their birthdays.
    The Gemorah says that when Rav Yo-sef
    reached sixty years old he made a party since
    he had avoided kares. The posuk in Tehillim
    says that the life expectancy of a person is
    seventy years and if he is stronger it is eighty
    years. Therefore, some celebrated their 70th
    Others did not necessarily like the day they
    were born, as was expressed in Yirmiyahu,
    “Cursed should be the day I was born.”
    In Koheles it says, “The day of death (is
    better) than the day of birth.” However, the
    Medrash Sechel Tov says, “Most people are
    happy and make a seuda on the day they were
    Growing at Certain Stages The Mishnah lists
    the following regard-ing stages of growth:
    A five year old begins learning Chumash: a
    ten year-old begins Mishnah: a thirteen year
    old begins mitzvos; a fifteen year old begins
    studying Gemorah; an eighteen year old gets
    married; a twenty year old begins running after
    (parnasa); a thirty year old attains full strength;
    a forty year old receives understanding; a fifty
    year old can give advise; a sixty year old is
    considered old; a seventy year old attains ripe
    old age; an eighty year old shows strength;

    a ninety year old become hunch-back; a
    hundred year old is considered as if he is not
    alive and has gone from the world.
    Relevance of a Birth Date Among Early
    Jewish Luminaries
    We find early sources regarding the benefits
    of the day one was born. Yitzchok was born
    on the fifteenth day of Nissan, and that is the
    day we left Mitzrayim. Moshe Rabbeinu was
    born in Adar, and this protected us during the
    miracle of Purim. On Shavuos we focus on the
    birthday of Dovid Hamel-ech. On Lag B’omer
    we celebrate the birth of Rabbi Shimon Bar
    Yochai(all of the above three individuals died
    on the day they were born). Moshiach was
    born on Tisha B’av.
    The Gemorah says that the mazal of the day
    and hour he is born has an impact on his
    mazal. We know that “ein mazal l’yisroel,”
    which means that the Jewish people have the
    ability to overcome any ill effects that a mazal
    may have.
    We wish a person mazal tov when he reaches
    a milestone in his life, such as a bris milah, bar
    or bas mitzvah, or an engagement telling them
    there mazal should continue to be good.
    Those In Favor of Birthday Parties

    Throughout the ages, birthdays were cel-
    ebrated by Jewish people, even Gedolim.

    Their views will now be detailed below:
    Some seforim say that the Tiferes Yis-roel
    instructed in his will that his chil-dren should
    write letters to each other on their birthdays.
    The Leket Yosher records that the Teru-mas
    Hadeshen made a siyum on the day he turned
    sixty years old.
    The Ben Ish Chai says, “Some have the
    custom to make every year on their birthday
    a Yom Tov and it is a good simon, and we
    do so in our house.” In addition, he says that
    when one reaches sixty or seventy it is proper
    to wear a new garment or eat a new fruit and
    make a shehechiyanu and have in mind his
    age as well (see below). The Ben Yehoyada
    says that one should make his birthday like a
    Yom Tov.
    The Ba’al Shem Tov zt”l was known for
    making a seuda on the eighteenth day of
    Elul which was the day he was born. Many
    Chassidim make as seuda on this day as well
    to commemorate his birth. The author of the
    Sdei Chemed made a birthday party when he
    reached sev-enty years old.
    The Chasam Sofer says that Avraham Ovinu
    made a party each year on the day that he
    had a bris milah. The Ben Ish Chai says the
    custom in his house was not to make a party
    on the day that his bris was performed.
    It is stated in the Ginzei Yosef that “an-shei
    ma’ase” recite a shehechiyanu on a new
    fruit or garment each year when they reach
    their birthday (which brings them joy, see
    below). It is definitely proper to give thanks

    to Hashem on the day of
    your birthday.
    The Kesav Sofer made a
    siyum every year on his
    birthday, and when he
    turned fifty he made a
    shehechiyanu and made
    a siyum on Meseches
    Pesachim. When the
    Chofetz Chaim zt”l
    reached the age of
    ninety he finished the
    kuntres “Bais Yisroel”
    and invited some close
    friends and made a
    The opinion of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”; is
    that a birthday party made with divrei Torah
    and shevach to Hashem would turn the party
    into a seudas mitzvah. There were many
    Chassidishe Rebbes who celebrated their
    birthdays as well.
    Those Opposing Birthdays
    Although many opinions maintain that there
    is nothing wrong with celebrating a birthday,
    there are some who take issue with this. These
    opinions will be brought below.
    The Gemorah says that it is preferable not to
    be born. This would support the argument that
    celebrating a birthday is not advisable, since it
    is not a good thing that one was born.
    Based on this, the Divrei Torah main-tains that
    we have no tradition of our holy Rabbis or
    fathers to make a birth-day party.
    In addition, some bring a proof from the fact
    that Pharaoh made a birthday party that it is a
    non-Jewish custom. Indeed, the Gemorah says
    that one of the holi-days of a non-Jew is their
    birthday. Some poskim note that there is no
    men-tion in the Gemorah, Geonim, Rishonim
    or Achronim about a party on the day one
    was born. The only mention regards Pharaoh.
    The friends of Harav Spector zt”l wished to
    make him a 50th anniver-sary of his job in
    Rabbonus, but he de-clined. The Otzer Kol
    Minhagei Yeshu-run says that people make
    these parties because they want to be like their
    neigh-bors, but what is the purpose of the joy?
    What is the Joy of a Birthday?
    A birthday is a good time to give thanks to
    those who have contributed to your very
    existence, Hashem and your parents. Birth is
    a great miracle. Just as we recite a beracha
    when we experience a miracle, we should give
    thanks for being born.
    We rejoice over a birth and mourn a death.
    Logically, the opposite should be true, since
    a newborn faces uncertainty, while a dead
    person has fulfilled his mission. Regarding
    this, Koheles says, “The day of death (is
    better) than the day of birth.” However, each
    Jew-ish person has a chazaka that he will
    do well (chezkas kashrus) therefore, we are
    happy when a person is born. This is the joy

    of a birthday as well, as we celebrate the
    opportunity to fulfill mitzvos and improve
    ourselves each year.
    Shehechiyanu When Turning Seventy
    Some poskim are of the opinion that when
    one reaches seventy he should make a
    shehechiynau, while others dis-agree. One
    should make the beracha without the shem or
    Practices on a Birthday
    On one’s birthday, it is proper to:
    Give thanks to Hashem.
    Give berochos to Others.
    Give extra money to tzedaka.
    Make a siyum.
    Receive an aliyah to the Torah.
    Set aside extra time to learn Torah. Daven for
    the amud.
    Go to a tzaddik and receive a beracha
    (common in many Chassidishe circles).
    Engage in introspection and seek ways to
    improve himself.
    Visit the Kosel Hama’aravi.
    Which Tefillos to say on Specific
    From age seventy and on one should say
    Tehillim chapter 103 on every birthday.
    “Live Until 120”
    A common beracha we give to people is that
    they should live until 120 years old. Moshe
    Rabbeinu lived to 120.
    Blowing out Candles on a Cake
    The practice of putting candles on a birthday
    cake corresponding to the cel-ebrant’s age
    does not stem from a Jewish custom and should
    not be done. Candles in the Jewish religion
    represent the soul. When extinguishing the
    candles, one should not blow it out with his
    mouth. The poskim say it is a danger to do
    so, especially since this custom stems from
    the non-Jews. The custom seems to be lenient
    with this, but one should avoid it if possible.
    Although some poskim say that mak-ing a
    birthday party is not a Jewish practice, the
    custom is nevertheless to make birthday
    parties. However, these parties should not be
    turned into jokes and levity.