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    The Jewish

    people have always


    on birthdays. On

    Pesach, we celebrate

    the birth

    of the Jewish nation.

    We say in

    Mussaf that the

    world was created

    on Rosh Hashana.

    Many question whether making

    a birthday party is a Jewish custom. Indeed,

    there are customs for the day of a

    birthday which are not well known. In

    this issue we will discuss these issues

    and many others.

    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, Pharaoh’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 “following

    in the ways of the non-Jews” and

    is not the practice of Jews. The Yerushalmi

    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 kings.

    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 Yosef

    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 birthday.

    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 born.”

    Growing at Certain Stages

    The Mishnah lists the following regarding

    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 Hamelech.

    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 celebrated

    by Jewish people, even Gedolim.

    Their views will now be detailed below:

    Some seforim say that the Tiferes Yisroel

    instructed in his will that his children

    should write letters to each other

    on their birthdays.

    The Leket Yosher records that the Terumas

    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 seventy

    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 “anshei

    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 seuda.

    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


    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 maintains

    that we have no tradition of our

    holy Rabbis or fathers to make a birthday


    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 holidays

    of a non-Jew is their birthday.

    Some poskim note that there is no mention

    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 anniversary

    of his job in Rabbonus, but he declined.

    The Otzer Kol Minhagei Yeshurun

    says that people make these parties

    because they want to be like their neighbors,

    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 Jewish

    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 disagree.

    One should make the beracha

    without the shem or malchus.

    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 celebrant’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 making

    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.