December 19, 2002
Power of a Blessing
Parshat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28 - 50:26)
If you were told that you had only a matter of days to live what would you do?
Write out a will? Eat your favorite meal? Try to repair troubled relationships? In our Torah portion this Shabbat, Jacob knows he is dying. Faced with this knowledge, there is only one thing he wants to do: bless those he loves.
We learn early on just how important blessings are to Jacob. When we first meet up with Jacob, he buys the birthright from his brother, Esau, with a pot of lentils. Later, Jacob disguises himself as Esau in order to deceive his father, Isaac, and receive the blessing he has so longed for. Given the lengths that Jacob was willing to go to in order to gain his blessing, it makes perfect sense that his final act should be to bestow blessings. How could Jacob possibly leave this world without passing along the blessing he had worked so hard to acquire?
Why was Jacob so obsessed with blessings? I think he understood better than most the power of a blessing. He believed that through a blessing, one could transmit not only love, but status, strength, leadership, reassurance, hope and even divine favor.
We are the Children of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. We too can bestow blessings on the world and on one another.
When was the last time you blessed someone? Today, most people feel uncomfortable blessing others. They assume that blessings are formulas that rabbis are supposed to offer. But they are mistaken. Anyone can offer a blessing.
Through a blessing you can turn a mundane experience into a holy encounter. When a loved one is ill, you can visit and bring flowers or stand before that same loved one, place your hands on his or her head and offer a blessing for healing. Imagine the strength and comfort such a blessing would convey.
Below, I've included four blessings. I have written for healing, for our children, for a new grandchild and even one for our parents. Please feel free to use them, alter them or, better yet, create your own.
A Blessing for Healing
May God heal you, body and soul.
May your pain cease,
May your strength increase,
May your fears be released,
May blessings, love, and joy surround you.
A Blessing for a Parent to Say to a Child
I wrote the following blessing to accompany the priestly blessing that parents bestow upon their children each Shabbat. If you are a parent, don't be timid. Approach your child and say, "I'd like to bless you."
May all the gifts hidden inside you find
their way into the world,
May all the kindness of your thoughts be expressed in your deeds,
May all your learning lead to wisdom,
May all your efforts lead to success,
May all the love in your heart be returned to you,
May God bless your body with health and your soul with joy,
May God watch over you night and day and protect you from harm,
May all your prayers be answered.
A Grandparent's Blessing for a New Grandchild
Gift of God, precious child, miracle, my little one. Lay your head on my shoulder. It seems that it was yesterday that I held your mother in my arms just this way. You are a sweet blessing to me, a tiny messenger of joy. Welcome to this magnificent life.
May God grace you with all things that are good and shield you from all harm.
May the bonds of our family be your strength. May our love be your comfort.
May our faith sustain you. May God be with you, now and always. Amen.
A Blessing for Children to Say to Their Parents
At my mother's 75th birthday celebration, she asked me to bless her. When I stood up, placed my hands on my mother's head and blessed her, I cannot describe the feelings that passed between us. All I can say is, bless your parents. You won't regret it. You will never forget it.
You gave me my life. You give me your wisdom, your guidance, your concern, your love. You are my mentor, my protector, my moral compass, my comfort. There are no words to express my gratitude for all the blessings you have given me. Still, I tell you, thank you.
May God bless you as you have blessed me, with life, with health, with joy, and with love. Amen.
Now that I've encouraged you to go out into the world and bless others, I'd like to conclude by blessing you.
May God be with you, may health and strength sustain you. May nothing harm you, may wisdom and kindness enrich you. May you be a blessing to this world and may blessings surround you now and always. Amen.