The widespread custom in the Jewish world is to bless our children on Friday night. Aside from anything else, it should contribute towards a special feeling of closeness between parents and their children as the Shabbos is ushered in.
The words used around the Jewish world for this brocha comes from this week’s sedra (Bereishis 48,20):
יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹקִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה
May Hashem make you like Efraim and like Menashe
Why do we bensch our children to be like Efraim and Menashe? Why not Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov? After all, we bensch our daughters to be like Soroh, Rivka, Rochel and Leah?
Several answers are given to this famous question. Some say that this was the first generation where there was no sibling rivalry or jealousy between brothers and that is our aspiration for our children. To get on with each other and, as one person I know reminds his children almost daily, that they should be each other’s best friends.
Another answer often given relates to potential. The hope and dream of Jewish parents is that their children live a life of Torah and mitzvos, have happy and productive lives and fulfil their potential. And that they use the unique talents that HKBH has given them to paint their masterpiece, to contribute to Klal Yisroel and the society in which they live and serve HKBH to the best of their ability.
Quite a hope and quite some dream. But as we bensch our children on Friday night, we actually ask for more.
Menashe and Efraim were the sons of shevatim but became shevatim. In a way, they exceeded their potential. We daven that our children don’t just fulfil their potential, but they exceed it. Talk about high expectations of Jewish parents!
In fact, when the Torah (Bereishis 48,5) says:
אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה כִּרְאוּבֵן וְשִׁמְעוֹן יִהְיוּ לִי
Efraim and Menashe are like Reuven and Shimon to me
The Rosh and other meforshim note that the gematria of the names of רְאוּבֵן and שִׁמְעוֹן add up to the same gematria as אֶפְרַיִם and מְנַשֶּׁה. Well almost. רְאוּבֵן and שִׁמְעוֹן totals 725 and אֶפְרַיִם and מְנַשֶּׁה comes to 726. We actually want our children not just to reach the spiritual heights of the previous generation but to exceed them!
Wishing all parents much nachas from their children!
Rabbi J Golker