“Of the many customs of Shabbat, one that is particularly beautiful is blessing our children.”
PJ Library founder Harold Grinspoon.
On Friday night as Shabbat begins, many parents give blessings not just over something – like candles, wine, or challah – but to someone. They bless their children.
The traditional Blessing of the Children begins with a warm-up – “May God make you like…” (or alternatively, “May you be like…”) – to express the wish that our children will embody the best qualities of those who came before them.
But where does this tradition come from? Well, the blessing of the children is rooted in the biblical story when Jacob, at the end of his life, blesses his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe, saying:
“By you shall all of Israel give blessings.”
Ephraim and Menasseh were known both for being faithful to Judaism and for being the first brothers whose relationship was harmonious. In other versions of the blessing, parents wish for their children, often daughters, to be like Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel and Leah. These four Jewish matriarchs are known as wonderful role models; in spite of living lives filled with challenge and hardship, they maintained faith.
The blessing that parents say over their children today continues with a three-part blessing, a timeless wish for well-being and peace. These words were first used to bless the people of Israel in desert wanderings and in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The oldage parenting advice that "the days are long, but the years are short" rings true for many of us. Taking a moment to pause each week and celebrate our children is an collaborative exercise in honouring this important, but fleeting time.
September 5, 2019