Tachanun on the day of naming a girl
Rabbanit Surale Rosen
She'elaI was recently in shul on the day a baby girl was named and I noticed that tachanun was said whereas on the day of a Brit Milah there is no tachanun. Can you please explain when tachanun is/isn't said and why? Thanks.
There are a number of stories in the Gemara about the different ways Chachamim prayed Tachanun (Ta'anit 14b, Megillah 22b, Babah Metziah 59b). However, we do not find the actual wording of this special prayer other than in the Geonic literature. The assumption is that since this is a prayer of self-deprecation and entreaty, each Tanna and Amora had his own personal version.
Rav Natronai Gaon teaches that Tachanun is a voluntary prayer (Tur Orach Cayim 131). Similarly the Rivash in Teshuva 412 emphasizes that at the time of Chazal it was merely a custom to say Tachanun and this Tefilah wasn't part of the compulsory daily prayer service. Therefore on certain days in the Jewish calendar, some communities omit saying Tachanun. He brings examples of the different customs during Purim and Chanukah where in Rav Hai Gaon's Yeshiva they did not say Tachanun while in Rav Amram Gaon's Yeshiva they did. The Darchei Moshe Hakatzar (Orach Chayim 131:5) quotes the Rivash to emphasize that indeed Tachanun is a voluntary prayer and therefore all Halakhic details regarding Tachanun are dependent on the minhag (custom) of the community (see also the Bach Orach Chayim 131:4 who brings Rav Natronai that Tachanun is voluntary).
The Aruch Hashulchan, however, deems Tachanun to have become 'semi' compulsory, actually because of the custom to recite it daily. He mentions that we also find in the Gemara that although voluntary, it is a prayer of great weight and is answered quickly (Aruch Hashulchan Orach Chayim 131:2).
Tachanun is not recited on a number of occasions for different reasons. The nature of this particular Tefilah is one of entreaty and self-deprecation before the Almighty, which, for example, contrasts with the festive nature of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and the Moadim (festivals). Tachanun is also not recited in the mourner's house during the shiva since the measure of judgment (Din) extends throughout the house and to the family members (Gemara Yerushalmi Moed Kattan 3,7) and we wish not to awaken any further judgment by entreating Hashem, in spite of being unworthy, to forgive our wrongdoings. Another reason mentioned in the Shiboley Haleket (page 28, brought in the Beit Yosef Orach Chayim 131:4) is that aveilut (mourning) is juxtaposed to Chag (festival), as it is said in the book of Amos 8:10:"I will turn your festivals into mourning". Just as Tachanun is not recited during the festivals, so too it should not be recited during the Shiva.
Besides the moadim, on other occasions related to simcha (joyous celebration), the custom is not to recite Tachanun, although the reason for omitting this prayer is not clear from the Poskim. Is it because there is a mitzvah that is intertwined with the Simcha or is the Simcha itself sufficient reason for not reciting this Tefilah? The Poskim bring a number of different explanations.
Tachanun is not recited in shul during Shacharit and Mincha where a groom on his wedding day prays, and on the following seven days of Sheva Brachot. On the day of a Brit during Shacharit, if the father, Mohel or Sandak are in shul, Tachanun is not recited although the reasons discussed in the Poskim vary. Is it because there is a mitzvah involved in the celebration of a wedding and a Brit or is it the Simcha itself that is sufficient for omitting Tachanun? Although a correlation sometimes comes up in the Poskim between the Simcha of a Brit and that of a groom here we will focus on the discussions round the Brit.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 131:4) rules that it is customary not to recite Tachanun in shul on the day of the Brit or if a Chatan, a groom, is present.
Rema adds that both the location and timing of the Brit are essential – only if the Brit is performed in the morning in a specific shul, then the congregation davening there does not say Tachanun but that's not the case if the Brit is performed in another shul in the area (Piskei Mahari Siman 71).
Neither seemed to require the presence of the Mohel/Father/Sandak as is customary today. On the contrary – the Rema goes on to say that if the Brit is done at Mincha time and a minyan assembles to daven in the home of the Brit with the baby present, Tachanun is recited.
The Taz (Orach Chayim 131:10) provides a reason "when going back home from shul where Tachanun was not recited on the day of the Brit, one is exempt from completing the missing part of Tefilah at home since by being present in shul the Simcha was bestowed on all who were present (see also Mishnah Berurah 131:21).
Sha'arei Teshuva (Orach Chayim 131:10) mentions the Eshel Avraham pointing out that if the father of the baby is out of town for the Brit and the Brit isn't done in Shul, nonetheless, since the relatives of the baby are present during davening, the congregation does not recite Tachanun. This follows the custom brought in the Knesset Hagdola (131:12). From here we can derive that the custom also depends on whether the father himself is present, not only on the fact that a Brit will be performed in the shul.
Sha'ar Hatziyun (131:21) based on the precise wording of the Shulchan Aruch finds that we don't require the father to be present and that the requirement was added by the Achronim (late Halakhic authorities). However, this was not added as a condition but rather as an option to be lenient i.e either the father is present during davening even if the Brit is performed elsewhere or he's not there during davening but the Brit will take place in that shul. Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 131:22) adds the Mohel and the Sandak as well.
We still need to clarify the reason for this custom. Is it because the simcha permeates everyone who is present (the Taz) or is it because there is an actual mitzvah involved? The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 131:4) mentions Rav Yehuda Bar Yitzchak and says that it is due to Am Israel's joyous acceptance of the mitzvah of the Brit (Gemarah Shabbat 13a). Darchei Moshe Hakatzar (131:7) comments that we find the MaHara Tirnah arguing against the custom of Durah not to recite Tachanun in the entire town on the day a Brit is taking place since Elijah the prophet will be visiting the town on that particular day.
Summoning the two major reasons we see that indeed the exemption arises out of a context of a mitzvah. Be it that we were overjoyed over the introduction of the mitzvah in the desert or that we are presently performing a mitzvah with great Simcha, both emphasize the element of the actual mitzvah of circumcision. We can learn from the Mishnah Berura's mention of the presence of the Mohel in shul (even when the father is not) as a reason not to recite Tachanun, that the chief element is the mitzvah of the Brit which is performed by the Mohel.
Naming a baby, be it a girl or a boy isn't an actual mitzvah. When a baby boy is born, G-d forbid, following the death of his two brothers as a result of their circumcision, the parents can name their child earlier than the time of the Brit. This is allowed because it is prohibited to circumcise until the baby is strong enough, which may take a long time. So too if a baby boy is born prematurely, Rav Binyamin Yehoshua Zilber (Az Nidberu 13 Siman 73) rules that it's better to give a name before the Brit. Rav Zilber understands this to be a good minhag as opposed to an actual mitzvah. In a situation where a baby boy is given a name before the Brit, and the father is called up to the Torah to name the baby, Tachanun is recited since there is no actual mitzvah involved. So too regarding the naming of a baby girl.
The Tzitz Eliezer (Chelek 13 Siman 20) holds that it is highly important to give the baby girl a name and the sooner the better, but there is no mention in Halakha about the actual timing.
We are naturally overjoyed with the birth of a girl and there were ways communities came up with for expressing that joy during the prayer service. We find in the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 282:18) in the name of the Levush a beautiful minhag regarding who gets to be called to the Torah first. The Magen Avraham lists all the different reasons for giving precedence to one person over another, among them calling up to the Torah the husband of a yoledet (woman who has given birth) who turns up in shul for the first time after the birth. The Machatzit Hashekel (Orach Chayim 282:18) clarifies that on a Shabbat before a Brit, the father of a new born baby girl whose wife turned up in Shul for the first time after birth is given precedence. Coming to shul for the first time is similar to the yoledet that came to the Temple with her sacrifice. Here the shul serves as a מקדש מעט while the community acknowledges the great joy upon welcoming a new soul into Am Israel. This is a beautiful minhag that communities can revive upon the birth of girls.