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    Friday night blessings – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why do parents bless their children on Friday evenings?

    Blessing the children on the Sabbath eve, by Moritz Oppenheim, 1867

    Blessing the children on the Sabbath eve, by Moritz Oppenheim, 1867

    A. Blessing one’s children goes back to the patriarch Jacob, who blessed his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh with the wish that future generations might say, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh” (Gen. 48:20).

    The equivalent blessing for girls is, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah”. The girls’ blessing is not a direct Biblical quotation, but is suggested by Ruth 4:11 (“The Lord make the woman who has come into your house like Rachel and Leah”).

    After these blessings, the priestly blessing (“The Lord bless you and keep you…”) is invoked upon both boys and girls (Num. 6:24-26).

    Friday night, according to the kabbalists, is the appropriate time for this ceremony because that is when Divine emanations come together in the world. A Spanish/Italian scholar, Yosef ben Chayyim Jabez, says that children need extra blessings on Shabbat because “they lack the power to draw down the flow of abundance through their own deeds”.

    Adults have to earn their own blessings through the way they live their own lives. We would all dearly love to be children again and hear a parent or grandparent wish us a good Sabbath and a good life. If that is not going to happen, we have to bless ourselves through our deeds.

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