I am not Jewish, however I am in an academic program with a young lady who is. We are in the process of organizing a surprise baby shower for her when we realized it is unwanted and welcomes dark spirits. Without offending her beliefs are we allowed to give a card with well wishes and celebrate with cupcakes? And would a gift certificate be unwelcome as the gift are? Thank you for your time.
Thank you for your question and your thoughtfulness of your friend’s religious feelings. The truth is that there is no prohibition in Judaism (and for sure no worry of “dark spirits”!) for making a baby shower before a birth. Nevertheless, it is thought more appropriate to dedicate the time before the birth to pray to God for a healthy baby and birth, and not to take anything for granted. Accordingly, although permitted, it is generally customary to save the celebrations for after the birth. On the other hand, being that there is no prohibition involved, just norms and preferences, there may be moral issues that should be considered. For example, if in the past you made baby showers for all of the others in your group, this young lady may be offended if you don’t do so for her, so it might be a good idea to ask her for her preference, even if it may mean losing the element of surprise. Similarly, if baby gifts are given at these showers, it may be very helpful for this young couple to know beforehand that they can save on some of the upcoming expenses; so again, it’s good to ask her what she prefers. A card with well wishes is always nice; and a gift certificate is a great idea, because it would also solve any concern about “not counting chickens before they hatch”, and could be used before or after the birth, whenever the expectant mother prefers. Regarding food, just make sure that the cupcakes or other edibles have a symbol that they are kosher (signifying the rabbinical supervision necessary, most commonly a “u” surrounded by a circle). May you celebrate many happy occasions! Rabbi Ari Shvat