Introduction to the Blessing Over the Children

Introduction to the Blessing Over the Children

This short article offers a brief introduction to the structure and customs of the blessing over the children, traditionally recited on Friday night. The author, Rabbi Howard Markose, is a Jerusalem-based educator and former community rabbi who received rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. 

The Blessing Over the Children

One of the most cherished moments in a Jewish home is that of the Blessing of the Children (in Hebrew, Birkat Yeladim) on Friday Night, when parents take the opportunity to bless their children.

Biblical Role Models

The traditional text blesses the children to grow to emulate particular biblical personalities. Sons are blessed to be like Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, and daughters are blessed to be like the Matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Parents declare, “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe” or “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”

The Priestly Benediction

Following these words, each child hears the words contained in the Priestly Benediction, taken from Numbers 6:24-26:  “May the Lord bless you and watch over you.  May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and may He grant you peace.”

Additional Customs

Many families have chosen to add to or alter this ritual with unique blessings of their own. Some families make time on Fridays before Shabbat to be in contact with one another for this unique exchange, even when they find themselves hundreds or thousands of miles apart.