Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayechi - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the last portion in the Book of Genesis. Jacob and his family are all in Egypt, having come there because of the famine in Canaan. After living in Egypt 17 years Jacob is about to die. He calls Joseph and makes him promise that, following his death, he would carry his body to the Promised Land and bury him with his parents, Abraham and Isaac, in the Cave of Machpelah.

In this Parasha we find the Birkay Habanim, the Children's Blessing, that every parent uses to bless his/her children on Friday Night at the Shabbat table. When Jacob sees Joseph's children, Ephraim and Manasseh, he tells Joseph that, in the future, the Children of Israel will bless their children with the following words: "May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh". This tradition dates back many years and is concluded by the 15 words of the Priestly Blessing: "May G-d bless you and keep you. May G-d shine His countenance on you and be gracious to you. May G-d turn to you and grant you peace."

Our sages explain that Shabbat, being a day that was blessed by G-d since creation, is an appropriate time to bless our children, young and old. It in an auspicious time, since the parents are relaxed, enjoying Shabbat, and can therefore concentrate upon their children. It is a blessing that is given from the heart encompassing the sacredness and peace of Shabbat.

What do you do when your kids and grandkids have grown up and are out of the house? You can still direct your blessing to them wherever they may be. Just close your eyes and imagine that your hand is upon them as you bless them.

If this Shabbat ritual is not being practiced in your home, you can start it at anytime. It is a beautiful and most meaningful way to bless your children and grandchildren.

May G-d bless you.

Shabbat Shalom,