Judaism has a beautiful tradition of blessing the children on Friday night before making kiddush. The traditional blessing is gendered with a version for daughters and one for sons, as they are blessed to be like the matriarchs or Ephraim and Manasseh. But not all families fit this model; not all children fit the gender binary, and not all families consist of parents and children.
By Rachel Silverman
Judaism has a beautiful tradition of blessing the children on Friday night before making kiddush. Parent(s) traditionally place their hands on the head(s) of their children as they bless them. The traditional blessing is gendered with a version for daughters and one for sons, as they are blessed to be like the matriarchs or Ephraim and Manasseh. In some families, the mother blesses the daughter(s), and the father blesses the son(s).
But not all families fit this model; not all children fit the gender binary, and not all families consist of parents and children.
This resource is intended to make this ritual inclusive for all kinds of families- those who want a gender-neutral traditional version, and those who are not the traditional family structure, such as queer chosen families. We hope that it makes people appreciate loved ones in their lives and reflect on the meaning of family.
All of the blessings below have been made gender-neutral. Since Hebrew is a gendered language, we have followed the policy of Camp Habonim Dror that modifies plural words by combining the masculine and plural endings, im and ot, to become “imot,” and by using “ol” endings for singular gendered words, taken from “kol”- a word meaning “all.” For example, “you,” traditionally translated as the masculine “atah” or feminine “at,” becomes “atol”.
We invite you to say any and all of these blessings that resonate with you and your family. Gender-neutral traditional blessing:
This is a gender-neutral version of the traditional Blessing for the Children, using both the male and female ancestors.
May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, 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.
יְשִימְכֹל יְיָ’ כְּשָׂרָה, רִבְקָה, רָחֵל, לֵאָה, אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה
יְבָרְכֹל יְיָ’ וְיִשַׁמֶּרְכֹל
יָאֵר יְיָ’ פָּנָיו אֵלֵכֹל וִיְחֻנֶּכֹל
יִשָּׂא יְיָ’ פָּנָיו אֵלֵכֹל וַיָּשֶׂם לְכֹל שָׁלוֹם
Y’simkhol Elohim k’sarah, rivka, rakhel leah ephraim u’menashe.
Yivarekhekhol Adonay v’yishmarekhol.
Ya’er Adonay panav elekhol v’yihunekhol
Yisa Adonay panav elekhol vayasem lekhol shalom
Blessing for chosen family
We honor and celebrate the queer community’s history of making their own chosen families. For this ritual, a mentor or elder may bless their mentee, or two people may stand opposite each other, hands on each other’s heads, and bless each other individually or in unison.
As Joseph said to Jacob, “Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine like Reuben and Simeon” (Genesis: 48:5), blessing his grandchildren like they were his own, I will love and bless you like you were my own children. Though we are not flesh and blood, we are heart and soul. I do not walk alone. I am bonded to you like Ruth and Naomi- “where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge; your people is my people” (Ruth: 1:16).
כְּמוֹ שֶׁיּוֹסֵף אָמַר לְיַעֲקֹב ״וְעַתָּה שְׁנֵי בָנֶיךָ הַנּוֹלָדִים לְךָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם עַד בֹּאִי אֵלֶיךָ מִצְרַיְמָה לִי הֵם אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה כִּרְאוּבֵן
וְשִׁמְעוֹן יִהְיוּ לִי״ (בראשית, מח, ה). אוֹהַב אֶתְכֹל וְאַבַרֶךְ אֶתְכֹל כִּיְלַדַי. אַף-עַל-פִּי שֶׁאֲנַחְנוּ לֹא בָּשָׂר וָדָם, אֲנַחְנוּ לֵב וְנֶפֶשׁ.
אֲנִי לֹא הולֶךְ לְבַד. אֲנַחְנוּ קִשּׁוּרִימוֹת זֶה בְּזֶה, כְּמוֹ רוּת וְנָעֳמִי, “אֶל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכִי אֵלֵךְ, וּבַאֲשֶׁר תָּלִינִי אָלִין, עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי”
(רוּת, א, טז).
K’mo Yoseyf amar l’yakov, “Ephrayim uMenashe kiruvein v’shimon yi’yu-li,” l’vareich nechdein k’ yal’deiv, ohav etchol v’avareich etchol k’yal’dei. Af-al-pi sh’anachnu lo basar v’dam, anachnu leiv v’nefesh. Ani lo holechol l’bad. Anachnu kosh’rimot ze baze k’mo Rut v’Na’a’mi, “El-asher teilchi eileich uva’asher talini alin ameich ami.”
Blessing for queer youth
This blessing was created for all queer folks, especially queer youth, who do not have anyone to bless them. We remember that over 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and keep them in our hearts this Shabbat.
And we bless everyone in the LGBTQ community: those who are not with us, those who do not have homes, those who are closeted, and all those who are only on the beginning of their journey. May they find acceptance and home. May they find a chosen family that loves and supports them. Our community’s arms are wide open to welcome them.
אֲנַחְנוּ מְבַרְכִימוֹת אֶת כֹּל קְהִלַּת הַלַהַטְבַ’ק: אֵלוֹ שֶׁכְּבָר אֵינָם אִתָּנו, אֵלוֹ לְלֹא קוֹרַת גַּג, הַסְּגוּרִימוֹת בָּאָרוֹן, וְכֹל אֵלּוּ שֶׁרַק
בִּתְחִלַּת מַסָּעָם. יִמְצָאֶנָּה קַבָּלָה וּבָיִת. יִמְצָאֶנָּה מִשְׁפָּחָה אוֹהֶבֶת וְתוֹמֶכֶת. זְרוֹעוֹת קְהִלָּתֵנוּ פְּרוּשׂוֹת לִרְוָחָה לְקַבְּלָם.
V’anachnu m’var’chimot et kol k’hilat halahatbak: eilu shekvar einamn itanu, eilu l’lo korat gag, hasogrimot ba’aron, v’kol ailu sh’rak b’t’chilat masa’amn. Yim’tze’na et kabala v’bayit. Yimtze’na mishpacha ohevet v’tomechet. Z’ro’ot k’hilatnu por’sot lirvacha l’kablamn.