Many Jewish parents embrace the custom of blessing their children on Friday evening. This custom is a nice way of bringing gratitude and spirituality into your family. On Shabbat and at other special occasions, it can contribute to a special feeling of closeness between you and your children.
The words of the blessing are taken from the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) and the introduction is altered depending on whether the child being blessed is a boy or girl.
For boys, the introductory line is:
May you be like Ephraim and Menashe.
יְשִׂימְךָ אֱלהיִם כְּאֶפְרַיְם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה.
For girls, the introductory line is:
May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.
יְשִׂימֵךְ אֱלהיִם כְּשָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה.
For both boys and girls, the rest of the blessing is:
May God bless you and guard you.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May God show you favor and be gracious to you.
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
May God show you kindness and grant you peace.
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלום
The blessing is performed differently in every family. In some traditional homes, only the father blesses the children. In other families, both parents give blessings–either together and in unison, or first one parent, followed by the other. In some homes the mother blesses the girls and the father blesses the boys.
Usually the person giving the blessing places one or both hands on the child’s head. Some parents bless each child in succession, working from oldest to youngest. Others bless all of the girls together, and all of the boys together.
After the blessing, some parents take a moment to whisper something to their child–praising him or her for something he or she did during the week, or conveying some extra encouragement and love. Almost every family concludes the blessing with a kiss or a hug.
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