Q. Can you explain the blessing in the siddur, “Blessed be He who has freed me from the responsibility for this child”?
A. The blessing is known as Baruch sheptarani. Literally it means, “Blessed is He who has freed me from the punishment of this one”. It derives from the Midrash which says that until a boy is 13, it is not he but his father who receives the punishment for his sins (B’reshit Rabba 63:9). Thereafter the son is a legal person responsible for his own actions. By means of this blessing, parents acknowledge confidence in their child.
However, though this is the generally accepted explanation, some say it is the parents’ sins that the blessing refers to, and that it is the son who on reaching Bar-Mitzvah says, “Blessed is He who has freed me from the punishment due to my father”. This implies that in his or her early years, a child is particularly affected by their parents’ actions, good or bad.