My favorite thing about Judaism is the weekly blessing given by fathers (or sometimes both parents) to their children at the Sabbath table. God is asked to make boys like Ephraim and Manasseh, while girls are to become like matriarchs Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. The recitation of these blessings never fails to move me, sometimes to tears, and I plan to do something similar with my child(ren) on a regular basis.
For years I had to look on as parents blessed their children, but last week I had the privilege of giving a father’s blessing to my daughter in a Mormon chapel. It is the custom in our community to have babies blessed (though not baptized) shortly after they are born. Several men who hold the higher priesthood, which bears the name of the high priest Melchizedek from the Hebrew Bible, stand in a circle and place their hands under the baby. One man, usually the baby’s father, addresses God, announces the child’s name, and pronounces blessings on the child that he feels inspired to give. The blessing can be recorded if the family wishes, so I had my iPhone in one hand while I held my daughter in the other. Eight other men joined me in the circle.
Blessing my lovely daughter was one of the spiritual highlights of my life. My mother flew in from Michigan to be present at her granddaughter’s blessing, and friends came from Hollywood, Santa Monica and Torrance to support us. Our daughter was wearing a beautiful cream-colored dress that my wife’s friend had sent her from London. I fasted for 16 hours before pronouncing the blessing in order to concentrate on spiritual impressions that I would receive on my daughter’s behalf. In addition, I reviewed my wife’s and my patriarchal blessings, which contain promises made to our posterity.
Mormons believe that couples married in temples can be together with their children for eternity, so I will likely be giving blessings to my wife and child(ren) for many years to come. Each time I do so, I will think of the Jewish Shabbos bracha for children and the sweet spirit that it brings into a home every week.