Harry Zeitlin
Grateful Every Day, Modeh Ani Lefanecha!


It’s not uncommon that one of the most anticipated moments of becoming a parent is the first Shabbat you bless your child. Not only do you form an additional bond with your own child, but also with generation after generation of Jews who came before.

As the years pass, children become increasingly independent, eventually leave home and move further and further from your orbit. You can count yourself lucky if you maintain a Friday ritual of at least giving the blessing over the phone. Of course, if your child remains observant and an active participant in Shabbat it’s not such a challenge. Receiving the bracha becomes as integral to their Friday as it is to your own.

As we know, not everyone’s path in life is straight and predictable. If our own faith takes and has taken twists and turns, with God’s help so will our children’s. If they’re not observant for the time being  and Shabbat is not currently an anchor in their week, they often question their need to have their Shabbat blessed.

This is a great misunderstanding. No parent or anyone else can bless another’s Shabbat by proxy — only they can do that with their own words, reciting Kiddush and the four Amidot (regular prayers) of Shabbat (or even just saying Amen), and whatever thoughts and actions they, themselves, take that resonate with the day. In fact, it’s not “their” Shabbat any more than it’s mine or anyone else’s. Shabbat is, and while we can make brachot over it and each add our own little contribution, it’s already intrinsically blessed.

Integral to each tefilla on Shabbat is the phrase, “V’hanchileynu Adonai Eloheynu, B’Ahava U’v’Ratzon, Shabbat Kadshecha” ….and you bequeathe to us, our God, with Love and Will, your holy Shabbat.

Shabbat, even just the approach of Shabbat, enhances our powers of blessing. While we can bless our children whenever we want, and I’m sure I’m not alone calling down brachot on them throughout my day and throughout my week, there is infinitely more power with a Friday afternoon phone call than with a call any other day.

How can a parent not long to extend such blessings and more to their children? Linked to Shabbat, our love goes so much further.

About the Author
After almost 30 years, Harry Zeitlin returned home to Jerusalem! Growing up in Denver, CO, he began Torah studies at an early age. He also had the privilege of knowing and studying with Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt"l. He graduated from Yale College (BA 1974) with an independent degree in communications, theory-and-practice, focusing on filmmaking and linguistics. Harry had a 45+ year career as a professional artist (photography, to which he is just now returning!) and has played guitar for more than 50 years, in addition to his 30+ years as an orthodox rabbi teaching Torah across the denominational spectrum. He lived in Israel from 1982 - 1989 and returned in 2016. I'M BACK! Grateful every day! Follow his spiritual adventures. He is always available to speak, teach, present a Shabbaton or other workshop. ......or to serenade your group with his guitar.
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