Blessing Children On Friday Night

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. It is a custom for parents to bless their children on Friday night. [Parenthetically, it is also a custom for the chosson and kallah to be blessed by their parents before they walk down the aisle (see Shulchan Haezer 7:1) ]
2. The poskim discuss how to bless the children. The Maaver Yabok (cited by Shulchan Haezer 7:1) seems to indicate that one should bless the child by resting one hand on the head of the child. The reason is that there are fifteen limbs in one hand corresponding to the fifteen words found in the birchas kohanim.

3. An additional reason given to use only one hand when blessing others (as opposed to two hands) can be found in the Torah Temimah (Naso 131). The Gemara says that it is prohibited for a non-kohen to perform the birchas kohanim (priestly blessings). Therefore, the Torah Temimah explains, blessing with two hands may be too similar to the priestly blessings, which are performed using both hands. He adds that he heard from trustworthy sources that the Vilna Gaon would only use one hand when blessing others. When asked why, the Vilna Gaon explained that, “The only time we find a blessing given with both hands is by the kohanim.” (See however introduction to Sefer Emunas Hatichia which indicates that the Vilna Gaon would bless others with two hands.)

4. However, Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Siddur friday night) rules that one should lean two hands on the child’s head when giving the blessing. The Sefer Yosef Ometz (70) writes, “Although I do not like to focus on Kabbalistic concepts, nevertheless, I believe that it is preferable to bless the children (on Friday nights) using both hands. This way the blessing will be performed using all ten fingers which is beneficial, for kabbalistic reasons. In addition, blessing with only only one hand appears as if one is being ‘stingy’ with his blessing.”

Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Shalmei Simcha 153) would use both hands when blessing others. A similar ruling is expressed by the Rav of Debreczin (Beer Moshe 4:25).

ואין להקשות לפי שיטה זו, שנוהגים לברך בב’ ידים, דא”כ יש לאסור משום זר בברכת כהנים, דעיין בביאור הלכה ריש הלכות נשיאות כפים שהביא ב’ תירוצים לבאר מנהג העולם, ותירוץ השני שם דכיון דתקינו רבנן שלא לישא כפים בלא תפלה, שוב מי שאומר פסוקים אלו של ברכת כהנים בלא תפלה בין כהן בין ישראל הוי כמכוין בפירוש שלא לקיים בזה המצות דברכת כהנים ולכן שרי. [ועיין בבית ברוך כלל ל”ב ס”ק ח’ שטוב יותר לכוון בפירוש שלא לצאת ע”ש.] וע”ע בזה בשו”ת ציץ אליעזר חי”א סימן ח’.

5. The father rests either one hand or two and says, “May G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh” (Genesis 48:20) [“ישימך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה”]. This is the traditional blessing given to children. He then recites the priestly blessing: [“יברכך ה’ וישמרך וכו’]. (Siddur Yaavetz)

6. Some also add the verse, “May G-d’s spirit rest on him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of G-d” (Isaiah 11:2) [“ונחה עליו רוח ה’ רוח חכמה ובינה רוח עצה וגבורה רוח דעת ויראת ה'”]. (see Maaver Yabok Sifsei Rinanos 53) Beyond this, the parent’s may add any blessing or prayer that they desire.

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

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