This week’s Torah portion is filled with exquisite, poetic language, and the most heartfelt blessings of a parent to his children. In few words, our forefather Jacob, captures the essence of each child. He exalts them for their good character and virtue- and at the same time he chastises them for their failings. The portion concludes with the penultimate prayer- the prayer that has been expressed by parents for thousands of years, as they put their children to sleep at night, and as they bless them on Shabbat, asking the angels of Heaven to protect our precious children.
There is so much beauty in the gift of blessing. I will never forget as a child, the feeling standing before my parents on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, and receiving a blessing from them. I can’t remember the exact words they spoke, but I remember as if just yesterday, the emotion, pathos, and tears, as their words, hopes, and ultimate wishes were expressed.
I don’t know if my children will ever fully appreciate the love and the yearning that I have for their happiness and success, but as I put my hands on my child’s head, I close my eyes, and I think of Jacob, a man of faith, and of such great courage- a man who struggled for most of the days of his life. I think of Jacob having to leave his father’s home at a tender age. I think of him having been fooled on what was to be the happiest night of his life, from uniting in marriage with his ultimate love. I think of Jacob as he struggled with the angel of Esau, and fought with him for ultimate supremacy. I think of Jacob and the love that he had for Rachel, and for her children Joseph and Benjamin. In my mind’s eye, I conjure up the emotion and gut-wrenching pain that Jacob experienced when he was informed by the brothers that his favorite child, Joseph was dead. Yet the very same man who had suffered so much, whose life was riddled with challenges and misfortune, who never got to live out his years with the ultimate love of his life, reaffirms G-d’s supremacy and providence on his deathbed.
I often wonder whether the average person can really connect or even fathom the level of pain and sadness that divorced parent’s experience, especially when their children are not with them. Divorce has taught me the power of blessing, especially as it relates to children. As most of us divorced parents know, in many instances, the children’s weekend schedule with their parents is divided-hence at best, a parent gets to spend half the Shabbatot of the year with their children. So when we are privileged to have our children on Shabbat, before we make Kiddush, let’s make certain to say this blessing- the very same words that were uttered by our forefather, Jacob. I want to believe that he foresaw the troubles of his people, and he left us with this, a most beautiful prescription of blessing and love to give our children. In order to ensure, that notwithstanding the pain and tribulations that we go through, we never forget that our children need our love. They need our commitment, and most of all, they need our prayers.
The reality is that we too, as divorced, single parents, need so much blessings in our lives. Who amongst us doesn’t want for something? Who can honestly say that they are not in need of G-d’s divine kindness and grace? This Friday night, as we gather for Shabbat, even If you’ve never done it before, go over to your child, put your hands on their head, and bless them with those very same words that our forefather, Jacob used, so many thousands of years ago. You can never know the power and the impact of a blessing on your child’s life.
“May the angel who has delivered me from all harm bless these lads. May they carry on my name and the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they grow into a multitude on earth”