Modern-day psychologists tell us that parents need to affirm each of their children regularly to help them grow up confident and well adjusted. Jewish parents figured this out centuries ago and have even found a way to make it impossible to forget, at least once a week.
Every Friday, as part of the Shabbat celebration, many Jewish families embrace the custom of blessing the children gathered at the evening meal. We do this for my daughter, Amanda, just after the Woman of Valor prayer and before drinking wine from our Kiddush cups. (Other families prefer to do it right after lighting the Shabbat candles.)
My husband and I lay our hands on her head and say this simple, beautiful prayer, which is taken from Numbers 6: 24-26:
May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
May God bless you and guard you.
May God show you favor and be gracious to you.
May God show you kindness and grant you peace.
For boys, only the opening line is different:
May you be like Ephraim and Menashe.
With this blessing, we pray that our daughter grows up to be like the strong Jewish women named in the verse. We know from many stories in the Torah that Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah were remarkable in every way that matters: They were wise, generous, selfless, righteous and faithful to Judaism.
The wish for Jewish boys is that they grow up to be like Ephraim and Menashe, whose father was Joseph and grandfather was Jacob. It’s commonly believed that these two men were chosen as the ideal because they were the first brothers among our forefathers who lived in harmony, and not as rivals struggling against each other for power. (Remember, Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave.) And so we wish their legacy of peace, brotherly love and commitment to our faith upon Jewish boys today.
In families with more than one child, the parents might bless the children in succession, from the oldest to the youngest. Even grown children who no longer live at home can receive the Friday blessing – by phone.
After the blessing, it’s typical for one or both of the parents to lean down and whisper a message of love, admiration and encouragement, to let each child know they are a unique and special part of the family. The blessing usually ends with a warm hug and kiss, a confirmation of our love and gratitude for our children.
I believe in the notion that you can’t show a child too much love. Whether you do it daily or weekly, just be sure to do it – a lot. After all, there are some pretty smart people, both ancient and modern, who would back you up.Tags: Candles, family, Gifts, kiddush cup, Kiddush cups, prayer, Shabbat, Woman of Valor
Have you ever noticed how candlelight changes the mood in a room? The flame somehow has a peaceful, calming effect that seems to fill the space. Just compare how you feel when stepping into a sports bar filled with TVs and a restaurant glowing with candlelight. The energy is completely different.
In the Jewish faith, we strive for calm and tranquility during our weekly celebration of Shabbat. And so we begin our Friday evening ritual with the lighting of candles. Although customs differ slightly, this ceremony is typically started 18 minutes before sunset. I’m often struck by the mental image of candles being lit in homes across the country in a progression that follows the Earth’s rotation around the sun.
Typically, a married woman lights the candles, but girls in the family may also be allowed to do the honors. In fact, many families give the young daughter her own candle to get her started in the tradition. We have our daughter participate in this way to help reinforce her Jewish education.
At least two candles are lit, one to focus on “remembering” Shabbat, and the other on “guarding” it. Many families embrace a lovely tradition of lighting a candle for each of their children, never taking any away even after the children are grown.
Here’s how the ritual goes: First, the woman (if married, she wears some type of head covering) lights the candles. Next, she draws her hands around the candles and toward her face three times, symbolically drawing the warmth, light and spirit of Shabbat into herself. Then she covers her eyes with her hands and recites the Shabbat blessing. The woman might take an extra moment at this point to thank God for blessings of family, health and prosperity. Or, a few minutes might be spent in silent prayer.
Finally, she uncovers her eyes to take in the glow of the candlelight and the love of family and friends.
The lighting of Shabbat candles is one of the beautiful rituals in our religion. What better Jewish gift could there be than a special set of candlesticks for a young girl or a couple setting up their own Jewish home? Check out our online catalog, where you’ll find Shabbat items in a wonderful variety of styles and materials. Meaningful Jewish gifts like these, no matter what the occasion, are a welcome addition in every household. You’ll be remembered fondly and frequently – at least once a week.Tags: Candles, Candlesticks, Jewish gift, Jewish Gifts, Shabbat, woman
Of all the blessings and recitations of our Friday evening Shabbat celebration, my favorite is the hymn, Eshet Chayil, or Woman of Valor. It is actually a beautiful 22-verse poem with which King Solomon ends the Book of Proverbs. Here are just a few lines:
An accomplished woman, who can find? Her value is far beyond pearls.
Eshet chayil mi yimtza v’rachok mip’ninim michrah
Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.
Oz v’hadar l’vushah vatischak l’yom acharon
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.
Piha patchah v’chochma v’torat chesed al l’shonah
Jewish culture holds many interpretations of the poem’s meaning, but to me, it’s the recognition of a special woman who gives of herself freely to her family, her community and the causes she believes in. Someone like my Grandma Dottie.
When we praise the woman of valor, my heart fills with memories of the Grandma Dottie of my childhood. Every summer when we made the trip from New Jersey to Florida to visit her, she would dote on us, and never missed a chance to make our lives fun and wonderful. She was the type of grandma who would spend hours making lunch for us while we splashed around in the swimming pool at her complex. And she always let us win at cards.
She was kind, thoughtful and generous to a fault. She would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it.
Many people besides me recognized Grandma Dottie as a woman of valor. She was involved for many years as a volunteer with Hadassah, a respected American women’s Zionist organization that supports the land and people of Israel. They sponsor programs that encourage education, advocacy, personal growth and Jewish continuity among members and supporters, as well as American and Israeli youth.
My Grandma Dottie received countless Hadassah awards recognizing her for outstanding leadership, commitment and hard work. I only know this because her guest bedroom was full of plaques and certificates from the organization – not because she talked about it in search of praise.
The Eshet Chayil describes the woman of valor as energetic, capable and righteous. Someone between Superwoman and Golda Meir. Someone like my Grandma Dottie.
Would you like to honor a woman of valor who has enriched your life? Traditions Jewish Gifts offers dozens of possibilities. In our woman of valor selection, you’ll find household items such as personalized vases, candlesticks and serving plates, as well as handcrafted items and artistic representations of the Eshet Chayil that come beautifully framed and ready to incorporate into any décor. Check out online catalog to find the ideal Jewish gift for the special women you know and admire.No tags for this post.
Do you ever find yourself wondering on a Thursday afternoon, “Where has this week gone?” With the demands of the job, the housework, the kids, the family, the laundry, the lawn, the meals and social obligations, there never seem to be enough hours to get everything done.
Take heart! You are not alone. In fact, this has been the lament of hard-working people for centuries. Even back in the days of the Jews being enslaved in Egypt (about 38 centuries ago), Mose saw the need for people to set aside time to rest. He went to the pharaoh and talked the ruler into giving the slaves one day off a week.
This day became Shabbat, 25 hours set aside for rest and reflection on the sixth day of every week. It has evolved with some variations, but many of the traditions have remained intact even in modern times.
In my family, the Friday night meal is our main focus. Our table is beautifully set with a white tablecloth, silver candlesticks, our Shabbat china, Kiddush cups and special serving dishes. Before our celebration starts, we put a donation in our tzedakah boxes, a tradition that reminds us of our blessings and our obligation to help eliminate poverty and illness in the world.
At 18 minutes before sunset, we light the candles to signal the official beginning of Shabbat and set the tone for our quiet time together.
We sing prayers and beautiful melodies to welcome the Sabbath, including a song of praise for the Jewish woman (my personal favorite). We also recite blessings on our daughter, Amanda, and any other children at the table, asking God to ensure their health and wellbeing.
Then we fill our Kiddush cups with wine and raise them in unison. To the sound of clinking glasses, we say l’hayim, which literally means to life. We next wash our hands to purify them before eating.
At this point, it’s time to break bread. Two loaves of challah have been placed on a challah plate or challah board and covered with a challah cover. The two loaves represent the double portion of manna that fell from the sky each Friday while the Jews wandered in the desert. After a short blessing called the hamotzi, my husband, as head of the family, cuts the challah and serves it. We sprinkle salt, a preservative, over the bread to signify our desire to savor this moment.
And then it’s time to eat! We all love the traditional Friday night meal, not only for the several courses of our favorite foods, but also for the time spent enjoying the company of family and friends without the distractions of the outside world.
As things wind down, we again rinse our fingertips in a special washing bowl and thank God for our many blessings by reciting the blessings after meals.
No matter how crazy my week is, I always find myself looking forward to Shabbat. It’s a great break from the commotion of everyday existence and a chance to reconnect with our family, close friends and spirituality – the really important things in life. What a wise and wonderful Jewish tradition!No tags for this post.
I’m sometimes amused – and sometimes confused – when I read my fortune-cookie messages. But I have a friend who’s a true believer. Just days before her wedding, her fiancée bit into his crunchy little tidbit and found the most prophetic words ever: “Change is inevitable.” (He still carries the slip of paper around in his wallet 20 years later.)
If you’ve ever been married, you know that few of life’s milestones turn your world upside down like marriage. Suddenly, you have another person to consider when making decisions. Eating dinner is probably not optional. And suddenly, you have in-laws!
Jewish couples usually have more points of discussion than most when shaping their lives together. Jewish traditions are so varied that individuals’ family customs may not align perfectly. So compromise becomes the order of the day as they sort through what’s important and blend it to find balance and peace in their new lives together.
When Brad and I married, we faced unique challenges. Since our livelihood is in retail, we can’t take extra days off to enjoy my family’s extended holiday celebrations up North. So, we’ve settled on creating our own Jewish traditions that work well for our family.
I love that in the Jewish culture, we have something called shalom bayet, which refers to a peaceful household. Family members are expected to commit themselves to the value of harmony and set aside differences of the good of the family, love and togetherness. Someone was really wise to have thought of that as a guiding principle for married couples.
No matter what traditions they follow, when two people set up a Jewish household, certain basic items can usually be found on their must-have list. At Traditions Jewish Gifts, useful things like Kiddush cups, menorahs, candlesticks, challah boards and covers, and mezuzahs are some of our most popular wedding gifts. Couples also welcome personalized items such as photo frames and bookends.
If you’re looking for the perfect wedding gift, check our online catalog. You’ll find a great selection of items that are sure to become a treasured part of the Jewish family traditions the couple will create in their new life together.No tags for this post.