02 Nov BIRCHOS HABANIM
M a n y
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 both hands.
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 depth).
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 two hands.
One should say, “Yisimcha
elokim K’ephraim V’chimenashe.”
He can then add additional
blessings if he wishes.
THOSE WHO DO NOT
HAVE THE CUSTOM
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 NO
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.
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 Menashe.
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
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
PLACING YOUR HANDS
LIKE THE KOHANIM
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 learning purposes.
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 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
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.