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Tradition & Innovation

Upsherin: His and Hers

boy getting a haircut

In November 2019 we held an upsherin for our son, which was modeled after the upsherin we held for our daughter in 2015 (and wrote about here). Both ceremonies are included below. You can obviously make an upsherin for any gender or non-binary kid and I hope this gives you some inspiration and ideas to play around with.

I found it helpful to make a playlist for the upsherin on my phone and play the songs for us to sing along with. For both upsherins we lined up a hairstylist to come help guide people's snipping and then give a polished cut after everyone had thier turn. We also included in the ceremony singing the alef bet (to signify learning) and distributing pennies to friends and then collecting it as tzedakah (to signify taking action). We also included a gift of a ritual or hair object for each kid (this could be more traditional like tzitzit/fringes and kippah/yarmulka or more creative like a flower wreath). We made sure to involve our soon-to-be three-year-olds in the planning and rehearse the plan multiple times so they would be comfortable. They both experienced a bit of stage fright, or a change of mind last minute about cutting thier hair, but we made it through with patience and a positive attitude! 

Son’s Upsherin

Explanation

Thank you all for being here to celebrate Erez turning 3 and turning into a big kid. It’s his actual birthday today, all day :)

Now It is time to start his Upsherin.

It is a Jewish tradition to let a child's hair grow, and grow, and grow until their third birthday. You know what else we let grow for three years? The fruit of a tree! So at a third birthday trees are ready to give their fruit, and kids are ready to cut their hair and show how big they are.

Erez wants to show you that he is big and is ready to learn and he is ready to do good things.

So we’re going to do three things together.

Erez will sing the alef bet and everyone is invited to join along.

He will give out coins to all his friends to put in his tzedakah box.

And we will all take a tiny snip of his hair with Kasey’s guidance, not too much since Sam is in love with his curls

Once we’ve cut his hair his big sister will give him a special Kippah to wear to show that he is now a big kid.

Actions

This morning Erez took a dunk in the mikveh to transition from being a younger kid to a bigger kid. Now that he is big he can wear a mini Tallit, a tallit katan, called Tzitzit.

These ones were made by my best friend in Israel, special for Erez with some of his favorite things on them. He got them at the mikveh today and can wear them when he wants.

  1. Erez has been learning the alef bet and wants us all to sing it together today. The Hebrew letters in the alef bet are the building blocks to Jewish learning and it is usually sung at an Upsherin to show how ready and excited a kid is to learn. This version we’re going to play also has the abcs which Erez loves learning.

Play the Alef Bet song

We have honey for Erez to lick off of his alef bet placemat to remind him that Jewish learning is so sweet.

2. Erez has coins for all of his friends to clink into a tzedakah box - it’s important to support people who don’t have everything they need, and giving tzedakah is one way to do that. 

When we take a stand for someone else we all rise up above our normal circumstances and get access to what is possible. 

We’ll sing a song about this as Erez passes out coin to each of his friends to put into the tzedakah box.

As Erez keeps learning what his family and community thinks are important, we’re grateful that you'll continue helping us teach him about making the world a better place. 

Sing and play Ben Adam Aleh

3. Haircutting

Now were about ready to ask people to help us cut Erez’s hair, with the guidance of our stylist. 

First Sam (his father) will lead us in the blessing of reaching special celebrations.

    בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ וְקִיְּמָֽנוּ וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה     

    Barukh Atah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha’olam shehekheyanu vekiyemanu vehigi'anu lazeman hazeh.     

    We bless you Hashem who has kept us alive and allowed us to be at this happy time.

Sing as start the haircut - grandparents cut first and then all friends come forward to take one small snip each

Play "Be'shem Hashem"

Then play Go to sleep you weary hobo

Mazal Tov!

Zoe (his big sister) has a kippah for Erez. 

Sing Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov

Conclusion

Thank you all for coming and for being Erez’s friends and teachers - for helping him do the things he loves to do and for helping him grow each day!       

Sing Happy Birthday and cut cake

 

Daughter’s Upsherin

Explanation

Thank you all for being here to celebrate Zoe turning 3 and turning into a big girl. Now It is time to start her Upsherin that she has been planning.

It is a Jewish tradition to let a child's hair grow, and grow, and grow until their third birthday. You know what else we let grow for three years? The fruit of a tree! So at a third birthday trees are ready to give their fruit, and kids are ready to cut their hair and show how big they are.

Zoe do you want to sing about being a big girl? “I’m a big girl as you can see, thank you Hashem for the way you made me”

Over the last three years Zoe has been learning so many wonderful songs and stories from lots of people in different places - from her teachers, her friends and her family - at her school New England Hebrew Academy, at her daycare with Fouzia, at her synagogue Minyan Tehillah. From all of you! 

Today at her upsherin Zoe wants to tell you all three things: 

  1. She loves learning about the whole world 

  2. She loves helping people and doing mitzvot 

  3. She loves being part of Jewish community

When we asked Zoe what kind of party she wanted to have she said - a rainbow upsherin! 

What are the two ingredients you need for a rainbow? A rainbow comes from light shining through rain. Those are also the two things a tree needs to grow - sunshine and water. 

So today Zoe is like our three year old tree, soaking up the rainbows and ready to share the fruits of her head and her heart with her community.

Now we’re going to do three things

Zoe will sing the alef bet with her Imma and Abba’s help 

She will give out coins to all her friends to put in her rainbow tzedakah box

Some of her family will take a snip of Zoe’s hair and Jon Paul will give her her first haircut

Actions

  1. Zoe has been learning the alef bet with her teachers and friends at NEHA and will lead us in singing it today. The Hebrew letters in the alef bet are the building blocks to Jewish learning and it is usually sung at an Upsherin to show how ready and excited a kid is to learn.

Alef Bet song

Uncle Ben has a honey stick for Zoe to remind her that Jewish learning is so sweet.

2. Zoe loves to collect coins and clink them into the tzedakah box because it’s important to give them to people who don’t have everything they need. 

As Zoe keeps on learning about what her family and community thinks are important, we’re grateful that all of you will continue to help us teach her about making the world a better place and we wish to all stay open to learning from her as well. 

Zoe will now give a coin to each of her friends to put into the tzedakah box.

Hum tune of Carlebach song "Higher" (without words)

3. Haircutting

Healthy trees have strong branches and vibrant leaves so now we ask some people from Zoe’s family tree to help us cut her hair with the guidance of Jon Paul. Zayde (grandfather) will lead us in the blessing of reaching special celebrations.

    בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ וְקִיְּמָֽנוּ וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

    Barukh Atah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha’olam shehekheyanu vekiyemanu vehigi'anu lazeman hazeh.     

    We bless you Hashem who has kept us alive and allowed us to be at this happy time.

Sing the whole world was quite as Zoe’s haircut is finished OR Bishem Hashem

Mazal Tov Zoe! Tante (great aunt) has a flower wreath for Zoe’s hair that used to be mine. 

Sing Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov

Conclusion

If you looked at Zoe’s family tree you’d see a man named Yip Harburg. He loved to write and sing songs - including “somewhere over the rainbow” which he wrote to remind everyone to help make the world a better place. 

Zoe - we know that with all of your help, and the help of your friends and family - we will be able to work on that together. Let’s end by singing a bit of that song.

Sing “Somewhere over the rainbow way up high there’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”                

Sing Happy Birthday and cut cake

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