The Shulchan Arukh rules that on the birth of a baby boy, the parents bless “Hatov vehametiv”, thanking HaShem who is good and does good (SA OC 223:1). This is the blessing said on a blessed event which is common to several individuals (SA OC 222:1). The Mishna Berura explains that the boy is a blessing to both father and mother.
What about a baby girl? We can learn from the Mishna Berura (223:2) that each parent makes a benediction on this blessed event as well. But in this case, the blessing is “Shehecheyanu”, thanking HaShem for bringing them to this joyful day (See Vezot HaBerakha chapter 18 p. 169).
We see that whether the new baby is a son or a daughter, he or she is considered a special blessing to both parents, and a benediction is made.
Why then is the blessing different? We can learn from a parallel law in the same section of the Shulchan Arukh.
In chapter 221:2, the Shulchan Arukh discusses the blessing made on rain which falls after a drought. He writes that a person who owns a field in partnership with someone else says “Hatov vehametiv”. But someone who has his own field says “Shehecheyanu”. Even if all of his neighbors also have fields, each one says “Shehechayanu”, because each one experiences the blessing in a distinct way, on his own distinct freehold.
It seems that while both father and mother rejoice alike in both daughter and son, there is a subtle but profound difference in the experience. The joy the parents experience in the son is in partnership. The mother usually provides the most care; the father is the primary role model and is also uniquely responsible for the boy’s Torah education (SA YD 245:1).
The joy the parents experience in the daughter is comparatively distinct. One understanding is that it is due to the special bond of the mother with a daughter. The mother is often the caretaker, role model, and confidante of the daughter. The unique psychic and spiritual connection between them is something that the father can never completely understand or experience.
His joy in his daughter will always be quite different than that of his wife. For this reason, each parent says “Shehecheyanu” separately on the joyful event.
This column is dedicated in honor of the birth of our new daughter, Nechama Chaya, born on Shabbat Balak.
My wife Attara and I blessed a joyful “Shehecheyanu” when we first saw her, and we continue to thank HaShem, Who brought us and the rest of our family to this wonderful time.
Rabbi Asher Meir is the author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, distributed by Feldheim. The book provides insights into the inner meaning of our daily practices, following the order of the 221 chapters of the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh.