22 Aug BIRCHOS HABANIM
M a n y have the
custom to bentch
on Friday night.
Where does this
custom come from?
Should the blessings
be given before or
after coming home
from shul? Should
one use one hand or two hands? How
does a left-handed person bentch his
children? Which child goes first? What is
the accepted nusach? Is there a problem
to bentch children, as this is usually
reserved for kohanim to bentch us during
birchas kohanim? All these questions and
others will be discussed in this article.
When Yaakov wished to bentch Ephraim
and Menashe, he gave them a beracha
while placing one hand on each one’s
head. Rashi says that when we bentch
our children we use the same nusach.
The custom to bentch children on Friday
night is brought down in early sources.
The custom is to bless daughters as well.
The Yaavetz says that Friday night is
an opportune time because there is
abundance in the world then, and we
present this abundance to our children.
Maavar Yabek explains that there is no
satan on Shabbos who could prevent
the beracha. Others say that the father
is not distracted with work, and he can
concentrate on the blessing. Still others
say that the father might be upset with
his child during the week and make an
unpleasant comment. On Shabbos he
wishes to annul those remarks with the
beracha on Friday night.
WHEN TO DO IT
Some say that one should bentch the
children after davening if they are present
in shul, or in the house. Others have
the custom to bentch the children after
Kiddush before washing for hamotzi.
ONE OR TWO HANDS
Yaakov Ovinu used one hand for
Ephraim and Menashe in order to avoid
jealousy, as they were both bentched at
the same time. We bentch our children
individually, and the custom is to use
Some are concerned with using both
hands, as this action is reserved for the
kohanim when bentching Klal Yisroel.
Those who are lenient say that this is not
an issue because everyone knows that the
goal is not to act like a kohen (see below
where we discuss this idea in greater
LEFT HANDED PERSON
According to the opinion that one uses
one hand, the correct hand to use is the
right hand. A left-handed person would
also use his right hand. However, as
mentioned above, the custom is to use
One should say, “Yisimcha elokim
K’ephraim V’chimenashe.” He can then
add additional blessings if he wishes.
THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE THE
There are many people who do not have
the custom to bentch their children on
Friday night. Some include Skver,
Lulov, Biyala, Spinka, and Karlsburg.
And all the litvaks
OLDER FIRST OR
It is not addressed in
the poskim whether
or not the older child
should be bentched
first. Some prove
from Yitzchok not to
bentch the younger
one before the older
one, but it is not
so simple. Yaakov
wasn’t supposed to get a bracha at all.
One who is an avel r”l may not bentch his
child during shiva.
BENTCHING A DAUGHTER
When bentching a daughter, the custom
is to say, “Like Sara, Rivka, Rochel and
Leah.” The source of custom is obscure,
as we do not mention the Avos when
bentching a son. The explanation is that
logically, we would bentch our children
with the names of the Avos, as we do
with our daughters. Regarding sons, the
Torah clearly says to use Ephraim and
BENTCHING AND ISSUE TO BE
LIKE A KOHEN
Earlier, we mentioned the fact that only a
kohen may use two hands to bentch klal
yisroel. Therefore, why is it permitted for
a non-kohen to bentch his child with two
hands? Many answers are offered:
Some suggest that the prohibition is
because he looks like a kohen bentching.
However, when a father bentches his son
it is obvious that he is not trying to imitate
a kohen. Others say if the hands are not
spread out like a kohen there is no issue.
The Darchei Moshe says that there is
only a problem if one blesses
the tzibur with the kohanim;
otherwise there is no concern.
The Bach says that saying
the nusach without a beracha
is not an issue. The Mishnah
Berurah says that if one has
no intention of doing the
mitzvah of birchas kohanim,
then there is no problem.
PLACING YOUR HANDS LIKE THE
It is stated in the name of the Zohar that
one is not allowed to form his hands in
the manner in which the kohanim place
them when giving the beracha to the
khal. Some say that it is permitted if it
is not done when the kohanim do it.
Practically speaking, one should not
place his hands in this fashion except for
EREV YOM KIPPUR
The widespread custom in Klal Yisroel
is to bentch one’s child on Erev Yom
Kippur. This is done close to the
beginning of Yom Kippur. When the
father bentches his child it inspires the
child to do teshuva and he enters Yom
Kippur humbled. Some suggest that
Yaakov Ovinu bentched Ephraim and
Menashe on Erev Yom Kippur and we
commemorate this by bentching our
children on every Erev Yom Kippur.
BENTCHING A SON BEFORE THE
The custom is that the father (and
others) bentch the chosson before the
chuppah. Some maintain that the custom
is use one hand; however this is not the
POTENTIAL ISSUE WITH NUSACH
As mentioned above we say yisimcha
elokim for birchos habanim. The rule is
that one may not recite a fragment of a
posuk. If so, how can we use this nusach
for birchos habanim by starting in the
middle of the posuk?
Some maintain that the restriction does
not apply to a beracha or tefillah. Others
explain that the Torah clearly instructs
us to use this formula for the blessing.
Therefore, there is no issue with starting
from the middle of a posuk.