Yom Kippur Memory

I bless my kids every Friday night before kiddush. It moves me every single time. Sometimes to the point of tears. It’s my reconnection with the boys after busy weeks of to-ing and fro-ing. No matter who is mad at who, who let who down, who’s grounded or had their phone taken away – Friday night bentsching is sacrosanct in our home.

There is a tradition that Erev Yom Kippur we bless our children too. For some, this is the only time of year they bless their children. For me, on this day, thanks to Rabbi Artscroll, I bless them with the long version of the blessing, found in the Yom Kippur machzor.

When I was 16 my father was very sick here in Monsey. He was at the Good Samaritan hospital for treatment and we had been told he was close to death. We flew in from the UK to be with him. It was this time of year. My parents had been divorced for a long time by then and I had little to no relationship with him.

We went to see him Erev Yom Kippur, and he wanted to bentsch us. My father, in my memory, had NEVER bentsched us, never taken the time to reconnect, and until that moment I had never felt that I missed out.

My brothers went forward one by one, and my father placed his hands on their heads and intoned from memory :

Image from aish.com

Then it was my turn. My father had no idea how to bless a daughter. We scrambled around for a siddur so that he could find the right words. But the damage had been done. I didn’t hear the blessing, I didn’t feel it – truth be told, I didn’t want it. My father, who had not been present for most of my life, just proved to me, in that moment (in my mind) how little he thought of me.

I was 16 and I was hurt. My father died 3 years later, and at the ripe old age of 19 I had just got to the point of wanting to know him and to know who he was. Maybe he felt just as bad at that moment – maybe he just didn’t know how to tell me. I will never know.

I remember my father every time I bensch my kids. At this point, I remember him without the anger and resentment I used to feel, but still with sadness at what might have been.


10 responses to “Yom Kippur Memory

  1. You’ve taken a bittersweet memory and created a lovely tradition for your own children. ❤

  2. And here is the link to the image of the blessing for female children. Just in case someone with little time does a search someday and ends up here.

  3. I am so sorry, HaDassah. What Leah said (above) is absolutely correct. ❤

  4. I am very sorry about your relationship with your father. It is not right, but you have made something special for your kids.

    Sometimes when my children are sick or nervous they will walk up unbidden and place my hand on their head. It always makes me smile to know they want their blessing then, “just in case.”

  5. My father in law blesses me, as well as my sister in law’s (very long term) boyfriend. I remember the first time he did, I felt so loved and included in their family, even though, at the time, I was not married in yet. I know a lot of families where the father blesses but the mother doesn’t, but I’ve resolved to saying that I want to bless my kids every friday night!

  6. It takes a very special person to take anger from a past hurt and play it forward as love to the next generation. May you be blessed as much as you’ve blessed your children

  7. I think you are pretty awesome and strong and took a negative and made it a positive. I plan to do the same from this Shabbos forward and will think of my beloved daddy who has been gone for a year and a half. He tried to bench us every Friday night when we were growing up and we couldn’t wait to get it done. Wish I would have had more patience….shabbat shalom!

  8. Hadassah, your memory must want you to be younger than you are. This happened in September 1991.

  9. I’m sorry that you have this bitter memory, but I’m glad you have been able to move past it and focus on the sweet. Focus on the way you move forward and are there for your children. I love that you do these blessings. So sweet.

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