Thank G‑d, my husband and I are expecting our first child. I don’t mind if it’s a boy or a girl, but I have a feeling that my husband wants a boy, and so too with our families. Is there any basis in Judaism for this preference? I’ll be happy with whatever HaShem gives, but I’d like to know where I stand.
First, accept my blessing that you and the baby should be healthy and that you give birth at a propitious time accompanied by joy for yourself, your husband and your families.
From a Torah point of view, giving birth to boys and girls is equally important. Without the one you can’t have the other!
Furthermore, the miraculous process of conception, pregnancy, birth and the emergence of a new life is so overwhelmingly amazing that any such considerations pale in comparison to what G‑d is performing.
If people nevertheless have a preference for boys, one reason may be “to carry on the family name”. But from a Jewish perspective, this is really insignificant. For most of Jewish history, people didn’t even have family names. Anyway, the continuation of a name is not particularly important, rather the continuation of Torah is, whether via sons or daughters.
Religious preference for boys might be based on the opportunity to fulfill the male-specific mitzvot of pidyon haben (redeeming of the first-born) or brit mila (ritual circumcision). But in the case of the former, there are many instances where for technical reasons it occurs that firstborns do not require pidyon anyway. In the case of the latter, the mitzva of brit mila pertaining to a boy is offset by the fact that one does not fulfill the mitzva of pru u’rvu (being fruitful and multiplying) without having girls.
The author of Me’am Loez has a section which is very pertinent to your question and is worth quoting. On the verse, “Now it happened that when man began to increase on the face of the earth, daughters were born to them” (Genesis 6:1), he writes:
“The Torah teaches us here that a man should not feel bad when he has a daughter. In many places there was an idiotic notion that a man must feel somehow ashamed when his wife gives birth to a daughter. Such an attitude is completely wrong.
The Midrash relates that when Rabbi Shimon [ben Gamliel] had a daughter, Rabbi Chiya visited him and said, ‘G‑d is now beginning to bless you’. The reason is that the family is increased through daughters. This is alluded to in the verse here, ‘Now it happened when man began to increase on the face of the earth, daughters were born to them’ [i.e., the Torah signifies blessing by the birth of daughters].
[Additionally], the Torah here emphasizes that ‘man began to increase on the face of the earth’. This alludes to the fact that the birth of a daughter brings a blessing not only to her birthplace, but to the entire ‘face of the earth’.”