It is Friday night. The Shabbat candles are lit, with a blessing over the family, both near & far. The table is set for a nice family dinner. The children are gathered and excited. Dessert is going to be cake & ice cream, their favorite. But before we eat, we first bless. And in our home, as in Jewish homes all around the world, the children are the first to be blessed.
“May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh”
“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah”
Praises are giving to the woman of valor (Proverbs 31). There is a blessing over the wine, with words from the story of creation and of how God installed the Shabbat to be a day of rest. Two loaves of beautiful braided challah bread are uncovered and blessed as well. After everyone has a little piece of bread and wishes the each other “Shabbat Shalom” it is time to eat.
We find the words for the blessing over the boys in this week’s Torah portion where Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph as he got near the end of his life.
Jacob had gotten very old and was ill. Joseph was informed. He went to see his father and brought his two sons along with him. Jacob was told that Joseph had arrived. He gathered his strength and sat up on his bed. Jacob’s eyesight was not so very good due to his age, so when Joseph brought his sons near to be blessed by his father he positioned them so that his father’s right hand would be on Manasseh’s head and his left hand on Ephraim’s head. After all, Manasseh was the first born, he should receive the greatest blessing from his grandfather.
Jacob decided differently and crossed his arms, placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s. Joseph tried to correct his father, but Jacob refused. He knew that he was doing. And until this day, when boys are blessed Ephraim is named before his older brother Manasseh. A tradition we have our forefather Jacob to thank for.
My father in law made a little change to this blessing when he came to faith and we continue to follow his tradition when we bless our children on Friday night.
“May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh and like Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah”
“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah, like Mary the mother of Yeshua, and like Yeshua the Messiah.”
No matter what age you are, may these words bless you, and may you be more like Jesus every day!