Question: Is it appropriate to celebrate birthdays? Someone told me that as the only birthday mentioned in the Torah is Pharaoh’s, we shouldn’t celebrate them?
Answer: While Pharaoh’s birthday is the only one mentioned in the Torah (Bereishis 40:20) the Midrash Sechel Tov (on that passuk) notes that most people treasure their birthday and make a party to celebrate.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:240:7) writes that we find that the Gemara, midrashim and mefarshim attribute much significance to the birth-dates of our ancestors. Clearly, one’s birthday is most significant and should be celebrated.
The Kesav Sofer (YD 148) wrote that on his 50th birthday he made a siyum upon completing maseches pesachim and recited shehecheyanu. The Ben Ish Chai (Re’eh 1:17; Ben Yehoyada, Berachos 28a) writes that his custom was to treat every birthday as a yom tov, and it is a commendable custom. Likewise, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:29:4) writes that it is appropriate to hold a birthday party, and providing that one shares divrei Torah, it has the status of a seudas mitzva.
R’ Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz Teumim (the ‘Aderes’) wrote (Tefillas Dovid 4) that one should say the chapter of tehillim corresponding to one’s age. Thus, one turning 13 should say chapter 14, corresponding to their 14th year.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly urged his chassidim to treat one’s birthday as a day of introspection whereupon they should say tehillim, give tzedaka and learn Torah (See Sichos 5748:1 p332; Sefer Haminhagim p81).In conclusion, one should use one’s birthday as a time to celebrate and thank Hashem for his past achievements and future opportunities.