By Laura Seymour
Each week, my favorite Shabbat ritual is blessing the children. I have read much about the reasons, meanings and ways to make it a ritual that we continue throughout our children’s lives. I recently found something posted online by Rabbi Yaakov Pollak of Congregation Shomre Emunah in Brooklyn that gave me much to think about.
God says to Abraham, “Veheyei berachah — You will be a blessing.” What does it mean to be a blessing? Rashi says Abraham was given the authority to bless others. The Ramban (Nachmanides) says Abraham became the model for blessing others.
Pollak suggests another way to look at it. The Torah tells us that Abraham, just before his death, “gave Isaac all that he possessed. And to the children of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts.” If he gave it all to Isaac, how did he have other gifts? The Midrash says that “all that he possessed” was not material wealth, but his spiritual wealth and this he gave to Isaac — the others received gifts.
Then we have Jacob blessing his children, and the Torah says, “Each man according to his blessing, he blessed them.” Jacob individualized each blessing for each son, making it the right one for very different children.
Now, when we bless our children weekly and at the end of our days, what will we leave to them as our blessing for each one? Pollak says, “The meaning of veheyei berachah shouts out to us. You will be a blessing. How much of you did you bequeath to your children? How much of your Torah and moral character, how much of your spiritual legacy will your children inherit? Let us be sure to answer those questions.”
This is the ultimate challenge because it is not something we can wait for the end of our days — rather, we are giving our legacy to our children every day. As we strive to “be a blessing,” we are, in fact, blessing our children and everyone we come in contact with by our presence. Are we living our values so that we can pass them on?
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and director of Jewish life and learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.