Bless your children well….

This past Friday night I organized a shabbat dinner for the families of my kindergarten class. It was primarily a social event, but also a chance for parents to experience what the children have learned about shabbat over the course of their first year at a Jewish day school.

My favorite part of the evening was sharing the ritual of blessing children. I didn’t grow up in an observant household, so I know first hand that many families who gather for a special dinner on Friday nights and recite blessings over candles, juice and challah, simply aren’t familiar with this tradition. Even if they’ve seen the blessing in a siddur or bentsher, if they haven’t seen it modeled at someone’s table, they may have never considered reciting it. That’s because on paper, the blessing is nice. But in person, it’s irresistible.


seven years ago she let us do this *all* the time

I remember clearly where I first fell in love with this tradition. When I was a student at Drisha, my hevruta Rose and her husband Morty frequently and graciously welcomed me to their shabbat table. Morty would call over each of their children, who at that time ranged in age from elementary school to college, one at a time and whisper a blessing in his or her ear. It was one of the most intimate and touching things I had ever witnessed between a parent and child. I especially loved seeing that the blessing followed the children into adolescence when such tender moments can be few and far between. Rose and Morty are grandparents now, but I’ll bet they still whisper in their grown children’s ears when they are together for shabbat.


They became my role models, and when our children were born, I modeled my own practice on theirs. I never knew if Morty whispered only the traditional blessing, or also added something personal, but in our home, I recite the Hebrew blessing and then tell each of them something I’m proud of from the past week. I encourage my husband to do the same. Our children’s faces light up as brightly as our freshly lit shabbat candles each time they hear their personal blessing.

In truth, I’m hardly in position to be a role model for shabbat practice the way Rose and Morty were for me. But, this was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass. Just before kiddush, I explained the tradition and passed out the “little blue books.” I called over my own children and blessed them. Then I  demanded gently suggested that every parent call over his/her children and try some kind of blessing – traditional, spontaneous, original, whatever.


Those of us with young children might find plenty of opportunities to snuggle with our kids and tell them how much we love them. But with the tween years right around the corner, I know that these spontaneous moments of intimacy may slip away. By making this sacred ritual a fixed part of our week, I know that they will never disappear entirely. I hope that this past Friday night I planted the seed for a few more families to take on this mitzvah.

Want to read more about blessing your child? Here’s a great piece from Kveller,  and another from


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Molly @ Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce

posted June 13, 2011 at 9:17 am

I love this idea of a personal blessing. Hugo and I do Friday family night dinners and I’d love to incorporate a blessing to go with it. Thanks for the inspiration!

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posted June 13, 2011 at 10:08 am

Yikes, we’re famous! That’s so sweet of you! Shifra and Aryeh and spouses, and baby were here this past shabbat, and Morty still blessed everybody!

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posted June 13, 2011 at 10:36 am

This is Morty and Rose’s son-in-law…just wanted to add that when they are with us here in Israel, the grandchildren get a double blessing — first from me and then Morty, their Saba. And yeah, it has the same impact as he has that “moment” with each of us :-)

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Rachel Besserman

posted June 13, 2011 at 11:03 am

You are so on my wavelength
I totally just got into this again after reading a suggestion on post omer counting.
Thank you!

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posted June 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

I still bless my now adult children each week before Shabbat whether they are home or not. While I wish it could include a hug and kiss, phones do, at least, carry the words and the love.

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posted June 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for sharing. And I love the idea of a double blessing-

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Frume Sarah

posted June 16, 2011 at 1:35 am

When I started blessing my children, I had no idea how much they would look forward to it each week. “Bless me first, Mama,” they request. I love the opportunity to share the traditional blessing and then whisper something I noticed about them during the past week. A struggle they had overcome, a kind gesture, or just something I love about them.

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posted June 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Oh, I love this. Doing it out loud in front of everybody always feels so awkward and manufactured for me, esp. when we’re with family members who are sort of anti-observance. Thank you for a great new idea!

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posted June 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I don’t have kids to bless, but every Friday night after I light Shabbat candles, I say a prayer out loud and always include my thanks to G-d for my wonderful husband — therein giving him a blessing. I’d like to think we’re not limited to blessing our children. Offering praise to God for his beneficence sets the tone for our meal and for our entire weekend. Thank God for the opportunity to praise his name and in so doing, bless those we love.

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