On Friday Nights, preferably between candle lighting and Kiddush (but any time is okay) we bless our children of all ages with the following words.
THE BLESSING FOR A SON
Ye’simcha Elohim ke-Ephraim ve’chi-Menashe
May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe
Why do we use this blessing?
Just before Jacob dies, he blesses his two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe. He says they should become role models for the Jewish people in the future.
On that day Jacob blessed them, he said, “In time to come, the people of Israel will use you as a blessing. They will say, ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe’.” (Genesis 48:20)
Ephraim and Menashe did in fact become role models for the Jewish People. Unlike those before them, including Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers, Ephraim and Menashe truly got along and openly showed their love for one another. In addition, they maintained their Jewish identity even though they grew up in the Diaspora of Egypt.
THE BLESSING FOR A DAUGHTER
Ye’simech Elohim ke-Sarah, Rivka, Ra-chel ve-Lay’ah
May G-d make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
Why do we use this blessing?
Each of the matriarchs had qualities that qualified them as role models as well. The matriarchs were strong and capable women. They endured difficult home lives, hardships in marriage, infertility, abduction, envy from other woman, and difficult children. Nevertheless, these righteous women, through their individual passion, their partnerships with the patriarchs and their loyalty to G-d, succeeded in building strong families that were the nucleus of the Jewish people.
THE BLESSING FOR CHILDREN
After the above blessing is recited for a son or daughter, we continue with this blessing for both boys and girls.
Ye’varech’echa Adonoy ve’yish’merecha.
Ya’ir Adonoy panav eilecha viy-chuneka.
Yisa Adonoy panav eilecha, ve’yasim lecha shalom.
May G-d bless you and watch over you.
May G-d shine His face toward you and show you favor.
May G-d be favorably disposed toward you and grant you peace.
On Friday evenings, after singing “Shalom Aleichem” and before sitting down to the Shabbat evening meal “A Woman of Valor”, (called Eshet Chayil in Hebrew), is customarily recited.
Eshet Chayil is a twenty-two verse poem with which King Solomon concludes the book of Proverbs. The poem has an acrostic arrangement in which the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in regular order. (For a complete text in Hebrew and a translation, please consult a siddur.)
ESHET CHAYIL – A WOMAN OF VALOR
Selected from Proverbs, Chapter 31
A woman of valor who can find?
She is more precious than rubies.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And because of her he lacks nothing.
She does him good and not evil,
Every day of her life.
She opens her hand to the poor,
She is sensitive to the needy.
She is robed in strength and dignity;
She confidently faces whatever may come.
Her speech reflects wisdom,
Loving kindness guides her tongue.
Her children rise up to call her blessed,
Her husband publicly praises her:
“Many daughters have done superbly,
but you have surpassed them all!”
Charm is an illusion, and so much of beauty is vanity,
But a woman who lives by Gd’s ideals merits true praise.
Place before her the fruit of her hands,
For wherever people gather,
her deeds speak her praise.