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Blessing of Children

BLESSING OF CHILDREN

Belief in the value and efficacy of parental blessing of children is attested to in biblical stories, such as those of Noah's blessing of Shem and Japheth (Gen. 9:26–27); Isaac's blessing of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 27, and 28:1–4); and Jacob's blessing of his sons (Gen. 49) and his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:13–22). The importance of parental blessing is also stressed by Ben Sira (Ecclus. 3:9). The blessing of the children is performed on Sabbath eve either in the synagogue or in the home; on the eves of holy days, of the Day of Atonement, and before leaving for a journey. The blessing is usually given by the father, on special occasions also by the mother, to both small and adult children, by laying the hands upon the head of the child and pronouncing (for a boy) the verse "May God make thee like Ephraim and Manasseh" (Gen. 48:20) or (for a girl) the verse "May God make thee like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah" (cf. Ruth 4:11), followed by the priestly benediction (Num. 6:24–26). From the Middle Ages, the ceremony of blessing children became deeply rooted (see J. Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica (1604), ch. 15, and Jacob *Emden's Siddur, 1748). The parental blessing is also recited prior to a child's wedding ceremony and by parents on their deathbed. When grandparents are still alive, it is customary to receive their blessing, too, especially on the eve of the Day of Atonement and before the wedding ceremony (Abraham Danzig, Ḥayyei Adam (1810), 143:19). In some communities the parental blessing is also bestowed after the *Havdalah ceremony at the end of the Sabbath (Baer, Seder, 309).

bibliography:

Eisenstein, Dinim, 56–57; Abrahams, Companion, cxxxiv–cxxxv.

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