Children, blessings can flow up family tree, too

Dear Families,
Every Shabbat, parents bless their children, but what about blessing our parents?
This comes from The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: Clal’s Guide to Everyday and Holiday Rituals and Blessings. The website expands on this (as well as gives many new blessings and rituals and new takes on “old” rituals). The opening comment reminds us that our relationships change: “As a child, my parents could do no wrong. As an adolescent, my parents could do no right. Now, as a parent myself, I finally understand why a primary metaphor for the complicated and changing relationship between God and humans is that of parent and child.”
Relationships are hard and blessings are ways to stop and reflect. Even when we repeat the “standard” blessing over our children each Shabbat, we sometimes have conflicting feelings for our kids. We put those aside, take a deep breath and reflect on how precious our children are. That being said, sometimes our relationships with our parents can be conflicted and challenging. It is often hard to “honor your mother and your father” — it does not say “love.” The Torah has a way of making us stop and think!
So here is a traditional blessing for our parents with a meditation and ritual from the book and website:
Harakhaman hu y’varekh et avi mori v’et imi morati. Merciful One, bless my father, my teacher; and my mother, my teacher. (Take a few moments to really think about this blessing — why does it say “my teacher?” How is a parent a teacher? Why and how should we bless our teachers?)
Meditation: Thank you for the traits you have modeled, for showing me that love can overcome obstacles, for sharing celebration and pain, for teaching me about fragility and strength.
Ritual: If you are a child, call your parents with a blessing as your message. If you are a parent, experience accepting the blessings your children give you, however they are expressed.
Now you have a new ritual and blessing to add. Remember, we can always add new blessings, new thank-yous. We can put them in the Jewish model using the traditional six-word beginning: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam… In this way we are giving our thank-you to God for whatever we are feeling thankful for.
Try it and feel free to start with the Hebrew and end with your own words about anything you are feeling grateful for. Recent studies have shown how important gratitude is in our lives and for many of us, adding a Jewish twist to our thanks connects us to our heritage. If you say the blessing out loud, it gives those around you a chance to add “Amen,” which basically means “I agree with you.”
Young children can learn to respond and then to add their own blessings.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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