Birchas Habanim-The custom of blessing one’s children on Friday night:
A. The source and reason for the custom:
It is an age-old custom for parents and Rabbis to bless their children and students with Birchas Kohanim on Friday night. The custom is first recorded in the Sefer Hachaim, written by the brother of the Maharal of Prague, in the following words, “The world is accustomed that the father blesses his son, and so too a rabbi blesses his student, on this holy day, being that the channel of blessings are open, and may the blessing of a simpleton not be light in your eyes. There is also another reason behind this custom, and that is due to the fact that a father commonly chastises his son throughout the week, and the same applies regarding a teacher to his student, and therefore we preface blessing the child and student prior to the start of the week in order to preempt any negative criticism.” The Mavor Yabok writes, “It is customary to bless on Shabbos, especially on the night of Shabbos as there is no persecuting Angel on Shabbos to persecute against the blessing’s fulfillment. It is therefore a great need for one to bless his children on Shabbos, and if one has a daughter he should bless her as well. One especially is to bless his children on the night of Shabbos. The wise man will understand on his own the importance and truth of these words.” The Yaavetz in his Siddur writes, “It is a Jewish custom for the parents and rabbis to bless one’s children on the night of Shabbos. The blessing takes place after Davening or upon coming home from shul, as that is when the Shefa is available to be drawn down to the children. The blessing should especially be given to small children who have yet to taste the taste of sin. However, also older children should receive a blessing from their parents, and this is a proper custom.” In Siddur Otzer Hatefilos he writes, “The custom of all Israel to bless their sons and daughters every Shabbos and Yom Tov is because occasionally during the week the father and mother may have chastised and cursed their children due to having been pained by them, and therefore now in a time of joy they nullify these curses through the blessings, and also the evil Angel answers Amen. The custom is to also for other people to give blessings such as uncles and aunts and grandparents with great joy, showing that they are all part of one’s family and loved ones.” The Rebbe mentions a similar custom, saying “In some areas it is customary on Erev Shabbos the children and grandchildren gather around in the house of the parents and grandparents in order to receive their blessing, and he blesses each and every member of the family from young to old, 3-4 year-olds, to young adolescents who have reached the age of mitzvah’s, children who have reached the age of marriage, married children, and children who have already bore children themselves, and even children who have already married off their own children. The content of the blessing of the father and grandfather is not the same to each and every family member, and rather each individual receives a blessing befitting for him personally.”
B. Those who are not accustomed to do so, and the Chabad custom:
Some are no longer accustomed to blessing the children on Friday nights and rather do so only on special occasions, such as Yom Kippur and the day of the wedding, and so is the widespread Chabad custom. Nonetheless, there are some families even in Chabad who follow this custom of blessing the children on Friday night, and this custom was likewise mentioned in a talk by the Rebbe, as a custom of some individuals. [Practically, those in Chabad who have a tradition in their family to follow this custom are to continue to do so. Furthermore, one who desires to adapt this custom due to its beauty, and due to it being a prime opportunity to bond with one’s children and bless them and wish them well, showing one’s love for them, certainly is not to be dissuaded from doing so.]
C. Who should give the blessing:
The blessing is given by the father to his children, both son and daughter, and may also be given by the mother and grandparents.
D. When to give the blessings:
The blessing is given after Maariv or upon coming home from Shul on Friday night [prior to Kiddush]. The reason for this is because on Shabbos, there is a special holiness that resides on the hands which can be transferred onto the children and students.
E. Placing the hands on the person’s head:
It is forbidden for a non-Kohen to perform Nesias Kapayim. Thus, it is forbidden for a non-Kohen to recite the verses of Birchas Kohanim if he raises his hands similar to a Kohen. Some Poskim however rule that it only applies if he raises his hands, similar to a Kohen, upon saying the Birchas Kohanim. Due to the above prohibition against lifting the hands while saying Birchas Kohanim, some are accustomed not to even rest both hands on the head of the person being blessed when blessing him with Birchas Kohanim, and rather rest only one hand on his head. Other Poskim rule it is permitted and encouraged for one to do so. Practically, the widespread custom is to be lenient and allow the placing of two hands on the head of the person being blessed, and so was the custom of the Chacham Tzevi and Rebbe Rashab.
F. The Nussach of Birchas Habanim:
The Rebbe was accustomed to begin the blessing from “Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe Lamor….”. However, most are accustomed to recite “Yesimcha Elokim Kiefraim Ukiminashe.”
לבנים: ישימך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה. יברכך ה’ וישמרך, יאר ה’ פניו אליך ויחונך, ישא ה’ פניו אליך וישם לך שלום.
לבנות: ישימך אלהים כשרה, רבקה, רחל ולאה.
G. Blessing the child with physical and spiritual success:
In addition to the above blessing of Birchas Kohanim, one should also bless his children with their spiritual and physical needs, each one according to his personal requirements. [Although it is forbidden on Shabbos for one to make personal requests for physical matters, nonetheless, it is permitted for one to give another a blessing even regarding physical needs.]
 Sefer Hachaim [brother of Maharal] 3:6; Yosef Omeitz [Yuzpa] 70; Maavor Yabok Sifsei Renanos 43; Siddur Yaavetz Hanhagas Leil Shabbos 7; Pachad Yitzchak Mareches Habeios p. 54; Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair 270; Avodas Yisrael p. 195; Pela Yoeitz Erech Brachos; Chasam Sofer Al Hatorah Parshas Naso; Mateh Efraim 619:5 in Alef Lamateh; Yeshuos Chochmah on Kitzur Shu”a 76; Keser Shem Tov [Gagin] 262; Kaf Hachaim 262:17; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 271:1
 Maavor Yabok Sifsei Renanos 43
 Siddur Yaavetz Hanhagas Leil Shabbos 7
 Arvis Leshabbos
 Toras Menachem 5744 2:943
 Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair 270; Menachem Tziyon in name of Rimnavor in Derushim Lipesach that he would only do so on special occasions and not every Shabbos; This custom is not recorded in the writings of the Arizal
 Hiskashrus 549:17 and 553:18; Rabbi Leibal Groner replied to my question as to what is the Chabad custom: “In majority of instances I did not hear of or witness this custom in Chabad homes, however there were some Chabad families I knew of who did follow this custom.”; See Sefer Haminhagim p. 58 that records our custom to recite Birchas Habanim on Erev Yom Kippur. It is not recorded regarding Erev Shabbos. Furthermore, certain individuals from Anash [i.e. Yisrael Jacobson?] have said that when they mentioned this custom of theirs to the Rebbe, the Rebbe astoundingly replied as to where they saw this custom in Lubavitch, hence implying that it is not a Chabad custom.
 See response of Rabbi Groner ibid
 Toras Menachem 5744 2:943
 See Mavor Yaabok and Siddur Otzer Hatefilos ibid regarding daughters
 See Siddur Otzer Hatefilos
 See Siddur Otzer Hatefilos and Sicha of Rebbe
 Siddur Yaavetz ibid; Kaf hachaim ibid
 Admur 128:2; Rama 128:1; Kesubos 24b
 Bach 128, brought in M”B 128:3
 Bach 128, brought in M”B 128:3
 Custom of Gr”a, brought in Torah Temima Bamidbar 6:23; Siddur Reb Shabsi; Maavor Yabok Sisei Renanos 43; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 128:6
 Siddur Yaavetz Seder Leil Shabbos; Sheilas Yaavetz 2:15 that so was the custom of his father the Chacham Tzevi
 See Daas Sofer 1:14; Beir Moshe 4:25; Tzitz Eliezer 11:8; Yechaveh Daas 5:14
 Brought in Sheilas Yaavetz ibid
 Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 194
 See Siddur Yaavetz; Yeshuos Chochmah 76; Piskeiy Teshuvos 271:1 footnote 5
 See Siddur Yaavetz “Each person may add a blessing of his own according to his fluency”; Yeshuos Chochmah 76 for a recorded prayer; See Sicha of Rebbe ibid
 See Admur 284:14 regarding Yekum Purkan; Piskeiy Teshuvos 271 footnote 11 and 288:5
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