Anointing with Breast Milk
Found In: Covenant & Naming Rituals
By Alexandra Volin Avelin | Ritual Component
We are here today to bring this new baby into the covenant of the Jewish people with God. We ask God to bless this child just as our forefather Isaac blessed his son Jacob, saying:
“May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous” (Gen. 28:3),
and as Jacob in turn blessed his son Joseph, saying,
“Shaddai blesses you with blessings of heaven from above, blessings of the deep that couches below, blessings of the breasts and womb.” (Gen. 49:25)
It is especially appropriate that we invoke God today by the name “El Shaddai,” which is usually translated as “the Almighty” or “the All-Sufficient One.” Shaddayim means “breasts” in Hebrew, and milk from her mother’s breasts nourishes the infant now that she has moved into the world, just as she was sustained by the umbilicus while she was in her mother’s womb. “El Shaddai” is also said to refer to the aspect of God that determines exactly what is “dai,” or enough, for each of us: how much blessing a person needs, how much suffering a person can endure.
It was El Shaddai who, when our ancestors were wandering in the desert, provided just as much manna as each person needed, with no excess and no deficiency. (Exodus 16:15-18) And it is El Shaddai who miraculously creates us so that infants call forth, and mothers produce, in almost every case, exactly the amount and kind of milk that each particular baby needs.
As a marker of bringing the baby into the covenant of the Jewish people, I will anoint her with the milk that sustains her. First at the site of her umbilical cord, where she was attached to her birth mother, and which is near her own womb that will one day have the capacity to nurture life. Then at her lips, where she draws nourishment during this new phase of her life.
Anoint the baby’s cord/womb and says:
“While yet unborn, I depended on You; in the womb of my mother, You were my support.” (Ps. 71:6)
Anoint the baby’s lips and says:
“You drew me from the womb, made me secure at my mother’s breast. I became Your charge at birth; from my mother’s womb You have been my God.” (Ps. 22:10-11)
Blessed are you, Yah our God, Life of all the worlds, who sanctifies us with Your commandments and commands us to bring her into the covenant of Avraham our father and Sarah our mother.
Amen! Just as she has entered the covenant, so may she enter into the Torah, into loving relationships, and good deeds.
Used by permission of author