Question:

1) Is it true that the practice of blowing out candles on a birthday cake may stem from avoda zara practices? Is it permitted?
2) How about “making a wish” — making a wish and then blowing out the candle surely seems strange to an orthodox Jew! Is it permitted?

Answer:

You should not do any of these practices. You can have a birthday cake, but without candles and without blowing them out. You are right this practice has pagan and avodah zara roots. Having candles on a birthday cake is a Christian practice in the church to blow out candles according to the age of the person. There is another source for this,. not much better. In Greek times, people on their birthday would try to find favor in the eyes of the moon goddess, Artemis. In an attempt to do so, they would make round cakes (to symbolize the full moon) and light candles on top (to symbolize the light of the moon.) They would then ask the moon goddess to grant their requests. Therefore bowing out the candles and even lighting them should not be done.

Sources:

V’yitzbar Yitzchok 1-51, RJJ Journal of Contemporary Halacha 54 pg. 73.

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4 Responses to “Blowing out candles on a birthday cake”

  1. Your quote : “In an attempt to do so, they would make round cakes (to symbolize the full moon) and light candles on top (to symbolize the light of the moon.) They would then ask the moon goddess to grant their requests. Therefore bowing out the candles and even lighting them should not be done.”
    So Rav what the difference when Rabanim recommend to put a key in a Chala after pessach for a segoula !!
    With repects.

    • The differance is if the segulah or custom has it’s roots in Judaism or Christianity, one has a good source and the other doesn’t.

  2. Why would this be prohibited if this is not your intention? It is not INHERENTLY avoda zara… It just resembles what they did. It would seem not to be maris ayin either, as it is very common practice in our days (it is a “symbol” of a birthday cake to have candles)… What is the halacha?

    • Even if it isn’t INHERENT that doesn’t mean that we should do it. Thefact that it was done as a form of worship in the times of the greeks, and the fact that it is similar to the from of worship done nowadays also is enough that we should not be doing it. We are to distance ourselves from thier ways. There is an issur called “Ubchokoseihem Lo Teleichu”, not to follow in the ways of the goyim. According to some opinions includes acts that make no sense, such as making a wish to a birthday cake! Who are they asking that the wish come true? Just daydreaming because it is thier birthday? Aside from that, the fact that it is done in a church would prohibit us from doing it, as it is a form of worship done in a bais avadah zara.

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