Shabbat Parashat Vayechi Blessing Our Children

Dear Friends,

It is our custom to bless our children on Friday nights and, as part of that blessing, we use the words that our Patriarch, Jacob, used in blessing Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe.  These words appear in our Torah portion of Vayechi (Genesis 48:20).  Then, we add the three-fold blessing:  May God bless you and preserve you; May God shine God’s light upon you and be gracious to you; May God lift God’s face toward you and grant you peace.”  It is a beautiful, positive blessing that we have grown comfortable with and that conveys positive feelings from the older generation to the younger generation.  This is all good.  The Biblical source for this part of the blessing is not in our Torah portion.  This part of the blessing appears in the book of Numbers, Chapter 6, verses 22-26.

What we don’t pay attention to, for the most part, is that Jacob blessed his own children as it appears in our own Torah portion has some positive messages in it and some harsh criticisms as well for some of his children.  Nevertheless, all of Jacob’s words to his children are part of his blessing.

How do we account for harsh words in the context of blessing?

The Torah tells us:  “and [Jacob] blessed them; each one, according to his blessing.” (Genesis 49:28).

From this we learn that even Jacob’s harsh words were a blessing.

Our Sages explain that sometimes we can help avert disaster by pointing out characteristics that might lead toward disaster.  In other words, saying what needs to be said in order to help a person avoid pitfalls, even if the words seem harsh, can, in fact, be a blessing.

May all of our blessings be for the good.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror