Holidays are special for everyone but birthdays are uniquely special — even when we share a birthday with someone we know it is “our day!” We are lucky to have two birthdays — one based on the calendar that the world uses and the second is our Hebrew birthday which is determined by the Jewish calendar. All you need is a special book or app to check using your date and year of your birth. And, you must also know whether you were born in the evening or morning because someone born in the evening of one day will have a different Hebrew birthday.
According to the sages, the day a person was born offers that individual the mystical benefits and powers of what is known in Kabbalah as “ascending fortune” each year on that day, and it is the practice of some to seek blessings from those celebrating birthdays.
The first birthday was Adam; although he wasn’t really “born,” yet we celebrate the birthdays of Adam and Eve each year on Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year is not celebrated on the day the world was created but six days later, when Adam and Eve were created.
The next birthday celebration was for Isaac: “And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned” (Genesis 21:8). The Midrash says this was actually his 13th birthday, the day when he was “weaned” from childhood and became a Jewish adult. According to tradition, Isaac was born on Passover and so the great feast may have included matzo!
Also, in Genesis, Pharaoh hosted a birthday party for all of his ministers and he remembered the butler and baker who brought Joseph to Pharaoh. Birthdays are the beginning of big things.
Another birthday story
A common Jewish birthday wish is, “May you live until 120!” This is to celebrate Moses who lived until 120 exactly — he was born and died on the same date, the 7th of Adar. Malkie Janowski of Chabad.org points out the proof from the Talmud: “In Deuteronomy 34:8 we read that the Jews mourned for 30 days following Moses’ death in the Plains of Moab. This area borders Israel, just east of the Jordan River. The book of Joshua begins with God’s command to bring the Jewish people across the Jordan River. God specifies that they are to cross in three days’ time. This instruction was given immediately after Moses died, meaning at the earliest possible opportunity after his death. This would have been following the 30 days of mourning. In Joshua 4:19 we are told that the Jews crossed the river on the 10th of Nissan. If we subtract the three days between the command and actual crossing, plus the 30 days of mourning, we find the date of Moses’ passing is the seventh of Adar.” Amazing, right? Now how do we know that Moses was born on the 7th of Adar?? Well, on the day of his death (Deuteronomy 31:2) Moses said, “Today I am one hundred and twenty years old.” All of this is proof enough for me; how about you?
Birthdays are important — they are special to us, our special day. Rabbi Nachman of Breslev shared this beautiful teaching about birthdays: The day you were born was the day God decided the universe could no longer exist without you!