It is a custom in many Jewish homes that parents bless their children on Friday night during the Shabbat ritual. Most use the “Children’s Blessing”* that is written in a Shabbat prayer book. Following the blessing, some parents whisper loving words into their child’s ear. This moment is one of the most heartfelt during the Shabbat ritual. Beyond Shabbat some parents recite this blessing to mark important moments in their child’s life.
This blessing is an emotional experience for many of us. Here are 3 short emotional stories about the Children’s blessing that have impacted me.
During my early 20’s, I lived in Colorado and was invited to Shabbat by an orthodox family. This was the first time I saw Jewish parents bless their children and it was emotional for me to watch. It brought tears to my eyes and that crying taste into my mouth. Maybe it was reading the English translation of the blessing that felt like a earnest entreaty for the child’s wellbeing (in the largest sense of the word).
May G-d bless you and protect you.
May the light of G-d shine upon you, and may G-d be gracious to you.
May G-d’s presence be with you and bless you with peace.
Maybe it was seeing the parents so physically close to their children. The parents touching their child’s head and then leaning in to whisper private words into their child’s ear. Maybe it was seeing the children accept this public act of love and connection without embarrassment.
When my daughter was around 5 years old, we hosted a Shabbat dinner at my parents house and invited my mother’s good friend who is in her late 60’s. When she saw my husband and I bless our daughter, she got water in her eyes and covered her mouth with her hand. Following the completion of the Shabbat ritual, she opened up and told us that her grandfather used to bless her and her siblings every Shabbat when she was young girl living in Iran (before the revolution). She had not thought about the Children’s blessing since her childhood and seeing the blessing in action made her feel nostalgic and emotional.
A few years ago, I was in another Jewish woman’s house and I saw that she had framed a copy of the blessing beside the kitchen sink. I imagined her and her husband glancing at this framed Children’s blessing prayer while washing dishes every day.
The children’s blessing is one of the reasons I “do” Shabbat dinner every week. It allows me to practice important skills every Friday night.
- Speaking out loud meaningful words to my daughter
- Joining my partner and turning towards our child together in a spirit of unconditional love
- Being physically close to our daughter in this ritualized way
Ritual and ceremony have been a part of the human experience for as long as communities of people have existed. However, this is something that many of us have lost a connection to and feel awkward about enacting. Ritual really means different things to different people; maybe you have preconceived idea that ritual must in some part be full of grandeur, maybe you find it embarrassing or feel like a fraud performing rituals because you are not always so clear about how you feel about G-d, faith and religion.
The children’s blessing is a simple ritual. You have the power to make it intimate, improvisational, and personal. Intimacy and closeness are easy in theory and harder to practice on a consistent basis, even in families. The children’s blessing is a way to enact intimacy every week.
I wanted to make a beautiful printable Children’s Blessing that parents could print out and use for Shabbat, frame for their house, use as a bookmark, or simply keep on their bedside table.
I made this printable children’s blessing to warm our hearts and our homes.
This Children’s Blessing* is available for immediate download and comes in a high quality (300 dpi) PDF file for ease of printing. When you download the file you will receive one PDF that contains two children’s blessing prints. Both children’s blessings are 5″ x 7″. This way, you can keep one for yourself and give one away as a gift.
This Children’s blessing print is simple to make.
- A4 paper (I like to use a heavier cardstock paper)
- Printer (a home printer works fine for these and going to your local print shop is also a good option)
- Frame (if you want to display it in your home). Here is a white frame and here is a black frame.
Your turn: Do you have a Children’s blessing memory to share with us?
*Please note that this product contains the name of G-d. If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.