Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When Do You Celebrate Your Hebrew Birthday?

A very interesting question came up on Twitter: When is a convert's "Jewish birthday"? The actual Hebrew date of his/her birth or the date of going to the mikvah and reemerging as a new Jewish soul?

I'd never thought about that before, but that's a very deep question! As converts, when is our "birth"?

My answer? BOTH!

For one, Jews love to celebrate. And as people, we could all use more reasons to celebrate life and be happy! Just because we've gained a new Jewish identity doesn't mean that we should no longer celebrate how we entered this world. I think the hesitance that many of us have about celebrating our own birthdays (and I've heard that before, as well as experiencing it myself) has to do with our enormous efforts to distance ourselves from who we were pre-conversion. We aren't supposed to turn our backs on who we were before conversion, nor the people who were important to us. It's difficult to balance two very different selves, but (hopefully) every person grows and changes significantly. That problem should not be unique to converts! We are a cohesive whole, not two halves.

However, looking to tradition (and halacha?), we don't mix simchas (joyous events). Each one should be celebrated and appreciated individually. I think that applies even more so here. Everyone with a bellybutton has a birthday. But very few people can celebrate the day they joined the Jewish people. It should be appreciate for the very special day it is, independent of any other celebration.

If you don't already know your birthday on the Hebrew calendar, check out the very handy Chabad birthday calculator!


  1. Makes so much sense it almost seems like there shouldn't even be a question... Thanks for sharing!

  2. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    Problem, but not insurmountable. I grew up in a family that was so "unchurched" ("How unchurched was it?") that my parents had a hard time getting around to celebrating Xmas ON Xmas, once we kids got past early childhood.

    Shabbat, fortunately, is easy to remember, because it is always either just about to come or I am still cleaning up after it.

    It drives my Israeli kids crazy, but I can't remember the Hebrew date of my actual birth. I claim that there is no reason for me to remember the Jewish date, as I was not Jewish at that time. My conversion date (Other Birthday) is 9 days before Shavuot, so I "call" a day somewhere in there that is convenient for me, and we celebrate that too.
    I remember all Jewish holidays, plus the birthdates of all my kids and my husband. That's enough.