This post presents the blessing for the children using both traditional male God-language as well as feminine God-language, reflecting a blend of Jewish tradition with modern feminist approaches. The two versions of the traditional blessing are followed by Marcia Falk’s contemporary, open-ended text for blessing one’s children on Friday night in a way that empowers them with a sense of possibility, is free of gender roles, and does not limit them to the qualities of particular ancestors. The post ends with the personal customs of two families. These blessing alternatives are presented by Kolot: Center for Jewish Women’s & Gender Studies, which is located on the campus of the Reconstuctionist Rabbinical Seminary, and shared on Ritualwell.org, a project of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College that provides a platform for creating new Jewish practices and observances.
Feminine God-Language, Female Child
תְשִׂמֵךְ אֱלֹהִים כְּשָׁרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה
תְּבָרֵךְ אוֹתֵךְְ יָה וְתִשְׁמְרֶךְ
תָּאֵר יָה פָּנֵיהָ אֵלָיִךְ וְתִחוּנֶךְ
תִּשָּׂא יָה פָּנֶיהָ אֵלָיִךְ וְתָשֵׂם לָךְ שָׁלוֹם
Tisimekh Elohim k’Sarah Rivka Rakhel vi-Leah
Tivareykh Otakh Ya v’tishmirekh
Ta’er Ya paneha elayikh vi-tikhunekh.
Tisa Ya paneha elayikh vi-tasem lakh shalom.
Masculine God-Language, Female Child
יְשִׂמֵךְ אֱלֹהִים כְּשָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה
יְבָרֵךְ אֲדֹנָי וִישַׁמְּרֵך
יָאֵר אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלָיִךְ וִחֻנַיִךְ
יִשָּׂא אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלָיִךְ וַיָּשֶׂם לָךְ שָׁלוֹם
Yisimekh Elohim k’Sarah Rivka Rakhel vi-Leah
Yivarekh Adonay v’yishmirekh
Ya’er Adonay panav elayikh vi-yikhunayikh
Yisa Adonay panav elayikh vi-yasem lakh shalom.
Feminine God Language, Male Child
תְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה
תְּבָרֶכְךָ יָה תִּשְׁמְרֶךָ
תָּאֵר יָה פָּנֶיהָ אֵלֶיךְָ וְתְחֻנֶךָ
תִּשָּׂא יָה פָּנֶיהָ אֵלֶיךָ וְתָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
Tisimkha Elohim k’Ephraim vi-khi-Menashe.
Tivarekhikha Yah vi-tishmirekha
Ta’er Yah paneha elekha vi-tikhunekha
Tisa Yah paneha elekha vi-tasem likha shalom.
Masculine God-Language, Male Child
יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶׁה
יְבָרֵךָ אֲדֹנָי וִישַׁמֶּרְךָ
יָאֵר אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶךָ
יִשָּׂא אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וַיָּשֶׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
Yismikha Elohim k’Ephraim vi-khi-Menashe.
Yvarekhikha Adonay vi-yishmirekha.
Ya’er Adonay panav elekha vekhuneka.
Yisa Adonay panav elekha vi-yasem likha shalom.
English Translation with Feminine God-Language
For a Girl: May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
For a Boy: May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.
May God bless you and watch over you.
May God shine the light of Her face upon you and may She be gracious to you.
May God lift Her face towards you and grant you peace.
Marcia Falk, a contemporary feminist liturgist offers her own version of this blessing. Instead of wishing that the child be like someone else, this blessing asks that the child be as s/he is.
To a girl:
______ הֲיִי אֲשֶׁר תִּהְיִי
___________, Hayi asher tihyi vahayi b’rukhah ba’asher tihyi.
To a boy:
הֱיֵה אֲשֶׁר תִּהְיֶה
__________, Heyeh asher tihyeh — veheyeyh barukh ba’asher tihyeh.
(child’s name), Be who you are — and may you be blessed in all that you are.
Two Families Share their Stories
My family modified the traditional blessing of the children to be more inclusive by age and gender by having the oldest at the Shabbat table bless the next oldest. Therefore, I bless my partner, who blesses our six-year-old daughter, who blesses her 16-month-old brother, who kisses the keppi (head) of his teddy bear. As our Shabbat table changes, so does the order of blessings, except that the teddy bear always gets the kiss on the keppi. (Catherine Sull)
Our four-year-old daughter likes to bless everyone by putting her hand on people’s heads and saying a blessing in her “secret” language. It is great to see her feel that she has the power to bless folks and not just receive blessings. Our hope is that as she gets older her blessings will be more substantial than just “waka, waka, waka etc….” Who knows, though…. (David Gerwin and Lisa Gersten)
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