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This Friday's service (7:30 PM to 9:00 PM) will include a farewell to the Jacowitz family. Please bring a photo of yourself to be included in a scrapbook for them.

Rabbi Joe's Weekly Message

Week of November 16

Rabbi Joseph Hample

Different Blessings

In my third year as your rabbi, I'm starting to work with the younger siblings of previous b'nei mitzvah. If the new one is louder or shyer than the old one, I find myself surprised, but I ought to know better. After all, I have two brothers and a sister. We are hardly interchangeable.

My dad loved all four of his children, but identified with some more than others. He understood music (Henry) and advertising (Martha) better than Judaism (Joe) and baseball (Zack). He wasn't much of a synagogue goer or bleachers sitter, although he was a Jew, and a perfunctory Mets fan. Fathers can't be expected to treat all their kids alike. Kids are not all alike.

In our Torah portion, the aging patriarch Isaac blesses the land for his quiet son Jacob (Genesis 27:28), but he blesses the sword for his bold son Esau (Genesis 27:40). The brothers have a difficult relationship, which may be partly Isaac's fault, but it makes sense to steer kids with different skills in different directions. It shows he notices who his kids are!

My parents provided a buffet of options to their brood. I got ample exposure to the advertising business, my grandpa's trade as well as my dad's. I got nine years of piano lessons: if I had the soul of a musician, that should have brought it out. I got tennis lessons too, just in case it was my karma to be a jock. It wasn't, but we don't have to worry that the path was unexplored.

On Friday nights we bless our sons in the name of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:20), the peaceful brothers. Better yet, we bless our daughters in the name of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, who are as different as the four species at Sukkot (Leviticus Rabba 30:10). Each child is a distinctive individual, who should be appreciated for his or her special gifts, not fitted into a standard mold. What kind of parent has only one blessing? Each of us deserves our own unique benediction.

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