My father brought a tradition to our Friday night dinners. It was an opportunity to convey his love and hopes for his children—in particular, the hope that Jewish values would be important to us.
k’SarahThe first matriarch, wife of Abraham, and mother of Isaac, whom she birthed at the age of 90. Sarah, in Rabbinic tradition, is considered holy, beautiful, and hospitable. Many prayers, particularly the Amidah (the central silent prayer), refer to God as Magen Avraham – protector of Abraham. Many Jews now add: pokehd or ezrat Sarah – guardian or helper of Sarah., Rivkah, RachelLavan's younger daughter and Jacob's beloved wife second wife (after he is initially tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah). Rachel grieves throughout her life that she is barren while Leah is so fertile. Ultimately, Rachel gives birth to Joseph and dies in childbirth with Benjamin. Rachel is remembered as compassionate (she is said to still weep for her children), and infertile women often invoke Rachel as a kind of intercessor and visit her tomb on the road to Bethlehem., v’LeahThe third of the Jewish matriarchs, Lead is the eldest of Lavan's daughters and one of the wives of Jacob. She is the daughter whom Lavan tricks Jacob into marrying instead of his younger daughter Rachel, whom Jacob has requested to marry. Leah is mother to six of the the twelve tribes and to one daughter, Dinah..
Y’varechichah Adonai V’yish’m’reych.
Ya’er Adonai panav eilayech vichunaych.
Yisa Adonai panav eilayich v’yasem lach shalom.*
My father has recited these words to me every week for as long as I can remember. Every Friday night my family would come together for ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends. dinner. We would stand by our seats and sing the blessings over the candles, wine and challahBraided egg bread eaten on Shabbat and holidays. Reminiscent of bread eaten by Priests in the Temple, of manna in the desert, and sustenance in general. Plural: Hallot. Then we would sit down and my father would come around the table to bless my two older brothers and me. He would put his hands on our heads, recite the blessing, say “Shabaaaat Shaaaa-lom” and kiss the tops of our heads. I always took this blessing seriously; it was a moment when I would sit still and embrace these few seconds that belonged to me. When I was younger, I had no idea what the words meant, but that didn’t matter. It was a tradition, and a moment that I got to share with my father each week.
In 1992, my father went on a trip to IsraelLit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel. with my oldest brother in honor of his upcoming bar mitzvahLit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed.". They had Shabbat dinner at the home of the rabbi who had married my parents. Rabbi Waldman blessed each of his children and asked my father if he wanted to bless my brother, too. My father brought that tradition back to our Friday night dinners. To him, it was an opportunity to convey his love and hopes for his children—in particular, the hope that Jewish values would be important to his children. The physical element of placing his hands on our heads has always been special, reinforcing his physical connection with my brothers and me.
This tradition has continued, whether we are near or far. When I went to overnight camp, my father would make a photocopy of his hands, write the blessing on the paper and FedEx it to me. For many years I did not attend a Jewish camp so there was more laughter than understanding whenever I received a picture of my father’s hands. It did not matter to me; I still have those copies of my father’s hands. The summer before my senior year of high school I attended Camp JRF for the first time. On my first Shabbat at camp, my father faxed a photocopy of his hands to me. I was expecting this delivery, but I didn’t think it would have meaning to other people; Rabbi IsaacAbraham and Sarah's much-longed-for son and the second Jewish patriarch. Isaac is nearly sacrificed by his father at God's command (Genesis 22). He is married to Rebecca and is the father of Esau and Jacob. His Hebrew name is Yitzchak. and Rabbi Jeff told me how touched they were by this simple act. They immediately knew what it meant and they, too, started to expect that fax from my father every summer.
This tradition has survived college, semesters abroad, world travels and moves to different states. But every Friday night we getA writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. blessed. My father no longer sends photocopies of his hands. To represent his hands on our heads, we now place our cell phones on our heads while my father recites the blessing and kisses into the phone. I have received this call in the middle of huge crowds, at concerts, in the middle of meals, while leaving work, etc. Context doesn’t matter—I always put the phone on my head. It is my reminder that it is Shabbat, and I always enjoy those few minutes with my father each week. I hope one day, when I have a family of my own, I will continue this tradition. It is important to me–not just because it is a Jewish tradition, but because it is a tangible connection that I hope to recreate with my own children. I hope that they will look forward to hearing from me every week, waiting for me to pass on my love, my hopes and my values–as my father still does for me.
Amanda Feder is a teacher in Chicago. She was raised at Reconstructionist congregation Adat Shalom in Bethesda, MD.
* This blessing is traditionally used every Friday evening by parents when blessing their children.
May God make you like Sarah, RebeccaThe second Jewish matriarch, Isaac's wife, and mother to Jacob and Esau. Rebecca is an active parent, talking to God when she is pregnant and learning the fate of her children, then ultimately manipulating Isaac and the children to ensure Jacob's ascendancy. Her Hebrew name is Rivka., Rachel and Leah.
May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.
May the Holy One bless you and keep you.
May the Holy One shine light upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Holy One turn towards you and give you peace.