to have Courage....In Family Life, In Spirituality, In Health, In Living Simply

I'm on a journey...... as we all are. Learning, remembering, re-discovering about health, spirituality, relationships, emotions and the mind.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Are Birthday Celebrations Jewish or Biblical?

Our family has entered what we refer to as Birthday Season, where 8 of us have birthdays between end of November and early March. I was curious as to the history behind celebrating one's birthday, particularly for Jews and Christians in earlier years. Below is just some of what I found in my search, and by no means is it meant to be exhaustive. Just interesting and/or informative.

If the recognition of one's birthday was important, we might expect holidays for the birthdays of Moses and Abraham, among others, but there is no such thing mentioned in the Bible. There is no record of their birthdays, just as the New Testament does not record the date of Yeshua’s birth. The season of Yeshua's birth isn't even indicated, although one can figure the likely time of His birth based on other Biblical indications (it wasn't in winter).

"This is not to say that there are no sources in Torah for the concept of a birthday. The Talmud speaks of the specialness of a person's date of birth as a time of empowerment and opportunity for him or her. One of the most important days of the Jewish year is Rosh Hashanah, Adam's--and mankind's--birthday. But as a rule, Jews did not celebrate their birthdays. Indeed, while the dates of passing (yahrtzeit) of the great figures of Jewish history are recorded and commemorated, their dates of birth are mostly unknown.

"King Solomon gave voice to this attitude when he said, "Better the day of death than the day of one's birth" (Ecclesiastes 7:1). On the face of it, this seems a rather negative view of life. But upon deeper contemplation, it in fact expresses the classical Jewish attitude that "deed is the paramount thing"--that actual achievement, rather than concept, theory or potential, is what is significant." CHABAD.ORG

"In Judaism souls are memorialized by their day of death, their yahrzeit - their personal anniversary, not the day of their birth. The age and birthdays of those in the community are recognized by verbal mention, but not celebrated." MASHIYACH.COM

"Acknowledgment of years to some degree had to take place as the Old Testament categorizes various people at various times based upon age (e.g. Leviticus 27:3-7; Numbers 4:2-3). But there is no recorded example of the Hebrews actually celebrating their dates of birth.

"If you search the scriptures you will notice that many people are mentioned being born, but that the precise date (either with a lunar or solar calendar reference) is not given. If God wanted birthdays to be celebrated, than perhaps He would have given specific birth dates in the Bible--but He did not."

I don't think one can be dogmatic about whether its right or wrong for one to celebrate their birthday. There is no direct Biblical instruction in regards to celebrating or not. But I personally see there are certainly reasonable (and strong) arguments for NOT celebrating. That view wouldn't be popular in our western culture where birthday celebrations are almost one of those 'holy-cow' issues...'our right' to celebrate no matter what.

Some Torah authorities are opposed to any sort of celebration of one's birthday, often based on a statement of King Solomon, who said, "A good name is better than good oil (ointment/fine perfume), and the day of death [is better] than the day of birth." (Ecc 7:1) Also, "this opposition is seemingly supported by the Talmud which determined that it is better that man not have been born than man having been born." Thirdly, the Torah only mentions a party at the same time that Pharaoh was celebrating his own birthday, and it resulted in the death of the baker. Some believe that "this implies that only such morally degenerated people as the sovereign of Egypt would celebrate a birthday, but not Torah True Jews..."

In the New Testament the only mention of a birthday party was for Herod, and that incident also ended with a death, John the Baptist's head on a platter.

There are, however, other Torah authorities today that permit and might even encourage celebrations on one's birthday as means of inspiring self-reflection and introspection. But celebrating birthdays just aren't historically a "Jewish" custom.

It seems that in the 4th century, once December 25th was officially designated as a day to celebrate Jesus' birthday/Christmas, that's when celebrating birthdays became more common place. So up till the 4th Century (AC) birthdays weren't celebrated.

Conclusion? It appears that according to the Jews, counting ones days is one thing, celebrating them is yet another.

PS. "The New Testament does not mandate or even describe any annual celebration of the nativity." David Brown

PPS I was totally shocked to read "Back in 1969 Anton Lavey wrote The Satanic Bible. On page 96 (in the 1976 version) it mentions birthdays:
THE highest of all holidays in the Satanic religion is the date of one’s own birth."


Question for You: Do you think it's important or at all relevant how the Jews or early followers of Yeshua treated one's birthday?

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