The Old Bless and Switch Routine
BY KALLY KISLOWICZ
There is a special blessing that parents give their children on the eve of Yom Kippur. It is a beautiful beracha, one in which we ask that our children be granted all the things we could ever hope for them. Years ago, my husband and I were lucky enough to get to say it four times. It is a longer version of the traditional Friday night blessing. A much longer version, actually.
There was a lot to be done in the waning pre-Yom Kippur minutes. The table was being cleared, leather shoes were being removed, teeth were being brushed, candles were being arranged, timers set, and so on. And amidst all of this we decided it was a good time to give a multi-paragraph blessing to each kid.
Ever suckers for efficiency, we agreed that he would start from the oldest child and work his way down, and I would start at the bottom and work upwards. And in the following 10 minutes of blessing and switching I learned that while what we want for our children cannot be summed up in just a few sentences, sometimes less is more because they are not fans of sitting still for so long.
My daughter was first on my list. I blessed her on the stairs, because that is where I found her after 2 minutes of panicking and saying ‘where is the baby?’
She likes to climb stairs about as much as she likes to sing ‘eensy weensy spider,’ and to keep her from throwing herself down the stairs in a fit, I interspersed my hopes for her future with hummed phrases about waterspouts and resolute arachnids. One down, three to go.
Next I found my three-year-old sulking under a pillow on the couch. He was very upset to have not been first in line for his beracha. This is a common theme in his life – on the first day of preschool his teacher asked me to list his fears, and the only one I could think of was being second. This is a problem, as he is chronologically third, and not as fast as those pesky boys who preceded him, so he is often to be found with the proverbial hairy chest (first is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the…). He was not willing to be consoled in the 35 seconds that I had allotted for consolation, so I blessed the pillow and hoped that he would receive all that worldly goodness by osmosis.
On to my 5-year-old (I waved at my husband as we crossed paths) who was sitting inside a toy fort and was reluctant to let me in. He explained that he had already gotten his beracha from daddy and he didn’t need more than one. I told him that I really wanted to bless him, and he conceded – provided I remained outside the fort. I again found myself hoping that my blessing was powerful enough to penetrate various man-made materials. Done.
And then onto my big boy, 7 years old and sprawled out on the couch reading a book. He saw me coming and sat up, bent his head forward so I could put my hands on his head, and put his arms around me in a hug. He sat still for the requisite two minutes (which would have been more meaningful had they not been punctuated by my husband’s ‘where is the baby??’) and kissed me and thanked me when I was done.
I went into Yom Kippur thinking that he is growing up to be such a good kid. They are all good kids. And in their honor I have composed the following piece of highbrow poetry:
I will bless you on the stairs
In your clothes or underwears.
Sulking, pouting, sitting still,
Will I bless you? Yes I will!
Can I, will I, in your fort?
When you’re mad and out of sorts?
I will bless you, sweet or crazy –
Oh, man, have you seen the baby?
Kally Kislowicz made Aliyah from Cleveland, Ohio to Efrat in 2016.