A Blessing Upon Your Head

Among German Jews the custom of fathers blessing their children is taken very seriously. We do it Friday evening at home- or in shul as fathers bentsch their married sons who may not be joining them for the meal. Motzaei Shabbosos this is repeated.

When visiting my father z’l, on any given day of the week, we would ask to be bentched in case we would not see each other again before Shabbos.

My father would often say that when he bentches us he is giving us something which he received from his father- and his father received from his father- and on, through all the generations.

It really was his legacy. Because my grandfather died at age 57 from a wound he sustained in the first World War. He suddenly felt he couldn’t breathe one evening and summoned all the children into the living room. He then proceeded to bentsch them with his last breaths and expired.

This is a scene no less significant than the one depicted in this week’s sedrah. Yaakov departed from this world and gave of his last minutes to blessing his children. Blessing them and setting them straight. Perhaps this is why, from all the forefathers it is specifically Yaakov who bears the distinction of ” Our father Yaakov did not die” and as the Talmud goes on to explain, ” as long as his children live, he lives!”

He put his last hopes and efforts into seeing to their success and to the continuation of the family legacy.

As a child we would walk into each room of the apartment while singing “Sholom Aleichem”. As a guest of Rav Eliezer Dinner of Bnei Brak, we walked around the table as we sang this. The idea being that we are escorting the Sabbath “angels” in a proactive way. Anyone else have this (or a similar) minhag?

A few years ago a reader asked why we say the words “Sholom aleichem Malachei Hashareis” in the first stanza, but refer to the angels as “malachei Hashalom” in the subsequent verses. I had seen someone reference a sefer called “Tiferes Hashabos” (Rabbi Dovid Y. Rosenwald, Haifa 1969) for an answer. I picked up a copy of this book and the answer was a bit vague- but I believe his answer is as follows. The term “malachei hashareis” is a direct quote of the Talmud (Shabbos 119) that describes the angels as “malachei hashareis”. When these two angels find the home in order with candles lit, table set and beds made, the “good” angel blesses the family that it may be so the next week. At that point the “bad” angel must answer “Amein” to this bracha. Now, the two angels have a common cause in blessing the family and are therefore called “angels of peace.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s