Names and Blessings

This week’s “Hashem Sheli” (My Name) ceremony in our Kindergarten class came at the perfect time and was such a gift to all those who could attend via zoom in the middle of a busy day. 

Students introduced themselves by name in Hebrew and English and then family members and  guests had the opportunity to explain the meaning and story behind each name. The stories shared were beautiful, emotional, as well as funny and gave those present such a great picture of the children and families that make up this incredibly special class. It was beautiful to hear parents share about family members and friends who hold places of importance in their lives, or  who are no longer with us and to hear about how we honor those in our lives through passing their names down to future generations. 



This also has me thinking about blessings that parents bestow on their children which is a major theme in this week’s parasha, Vayechi. When Yaakov is nearing the end of his life Yosef comes to visit him and be blessed and he brings his sons Ephraim and Menasheh with him. Before blessing the children themselves, Yaakov offers a beautiful blessing to Yoseph which reads as follows:


“The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—

Bless the lads.

In them may my name be recalled,

And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,

And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.” 


This blessing also appears in Jewish tradition as a song “Ha-malach ha-goel” which is often sung at the brit milah and/or baby naming ceremonies. It is also part of my family’s goodnight song repertoire that we sing to our son each night. 


I was struck by the placement of this blessing. While the actual blessings to Ephraim and Menasheh are also used as inspiration for the blessing of children on Friday nights, I was previously unaware of Yaakov’s unique blessing to Yosef. 


Rashbam, a grandson of Rashi (and an acclaimed commentator in his own right), Explains that blessings given to one’s children are also a blessing given to the parents. Therefore, Yosef’s inclusion in this blessing is to state that he will continue to be rewarded through the actions of his children just as Yaakov clearly took great pleasure in the accomplishments of his son. 


As we near the end of this very full semester of learning, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge that not only do the actions and accomplishments of our students reflect on our institution and community, but also reflect on all of our families who make the choice to send their children to Jewish days school, and more specifically, Ezra. 


I want to wish our entire community a restful shabbat and that we should all merit to receive all the blessings which we most need right now. 

For the text of this week’s parasha, click here and to hear a beautiful rendition of Ha-malach ha-goel, click here.