The Power of the Blessing – Craig Hill
It is God’s plan for every child to do more than receive his parents blessing once in their life. God wants children to grow up in a culture of blessing. Many people groups around the world practice customs, ceremonies and traditions that naturally produce an overall culture of blessing. God gave the Jewish people a wonderful weekly tradition of weekly family blessing that is practiced every Erev Shabbat ( Friday evening) with a special meal and a pronouncement of blessings over each member of the family. Every week the Jewish father prays a blessing first over his wife and then he pronounces a blessing over each of his sons and daughters. There is also a blessing for the father and husband of the home that is recited by his wife. In many Jewish families the father also proclaims vision and prosperity over his children thus creating in his offspring an expectation of future success. By doing this, the Father is imparting Gods image of identity and destiny into the hearts and minds of his children. In many Jewish families who practice this tradition, the words of blessing the father speaks over his children are prophetic and in adulthood the children will often fulfill exactly what the father prophesied week after week over his sons and daughters.
It is important for parents to establish a general atmosphere of blessing rather than cursing in the home. In order to do this, parents must learn how to separate their children’s identity from their behavior. This is especially important when the need to discipline arises. A parent needs to understand and teach the difference between controlling ones behavior and exercising authority. Growing up with a healthy understanding of authority will teach the child the importance of honor and respect. Within the Jewish culture there are seven critical stages of a person’s life that involves a spoken blessing. These seven stages are:
1. Blessing a child at Conception and in the womb
The identity of an unborn child can be either blessed or cursed from the moment of conception to birth. Scriptures tell us that children need to be blessed in the womb. An unborn child is not a fetus. He is a real person who feels and whose identity and self-perception are strongly shaped by his parents words, emotions and attitudes. It was God’s plan for the child to be blessed during the entire gestation period, but this is not always what happens. Blessing your child in the womb may include:
i. The parents providing a spiritually protected environment for the child be being in a covenant of marriage.
ii. Conveying to the child that he or she is wanted, accepted and received. Being excited about the gift God has given you in the conception of a child.
iii. The mother being free of emotional stress and turmoil in her life. The mother and father providing an environment of love, nurture and joy.
Cursing a child in the womb may involve the following attitudes:
i. The parents leaving the child vulnerable by not providing spiritual protection afforded by the covenant of marriage
ii. Conveying to the unborn child he is unwanted and unwelcome
iii. Feeling the child is a bother or an intrusion into the mother’s life
iv. The mother living in an environment of emotional stress, turmoil, fear
v. The parents not communicating nurture, love or value to the child
vi. The mother attempting to abort the child
2. Blessing a child at birth – Engraving an Eternal Covenant
When God established a special covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants, He decreed that a sign of this covenant should be permanently marked on the bodies of all Abraham and Sarah’s male descendants. Circumcision, called Brit Milah in Hebrew or bris, is the sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people. “God spoke to Abraham saying, “This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you and your descendants after you, every male child among you shall be circumcised.” B’resheet (Genesis) 17:10 Brit Milah is a ritual performed on the eighth day of a boy’s life, during daylight hours. The day a child is born counts as the first day, so if a child is born on Friday he is circumcised on the following Friday. If a child is born on Friday evening he is circumcised the following Saturday because a Jewish day begins at sunset.
Circumcisions are performed on Shabbat, even though they involve drawing blood which is normally forbidden on this day. The commandment to circumcise is found in B’resheet (Genesis) 17:10-14 and Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:3. According to the scriptures, circumcision is to take place on the eighth day even if it falls on the Sabbath. Why the eighth day? Medically this is the safest time. God designed the body so that it is on the 8th day that the blood coagulates. There is a special ceremony attended by relatives and friends. Circumcision is performed by a Mohel (ritual circumciser who has been medically trained in the medical procedure). A Rabbi, a doctor, or even a father if trained can perform this rite. A chair is set aside in honor of the prophet Elijah and the infant is placed on the lap of the Sandek (godfather) while others remain standing. After the circumcision is performed benedictions and prayers are spoken, and the child’s name is given (traditionally, the name of a deceased relative).
3. The Pidyon Haben – redemption of the first born
God said that all the firstborn animals and sons belong to Him. It was very clear to that generation of Israelites that they owed their firstborn sons to the Lord, remembering their exodus from Egypt, when every first-born son was slain if the blood had not been applied to the door-posts of their homes. God’s original plan was that all the first-born males were intended to serve as priests in their family and later in the Tabernacle and the temple. Sh’mot (Exodus) 19: You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. After the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt and came to Mt Sinai to receive the Torah, they committed the great sin of worshipping the golden calf. Because of this sin Adonai transferred this priestly role of the first born sons to the tribe of Levi because they were the only tribe that did not commit this sin. As a result God chose the tribe of Levi to be the ones to serve as priests, as Kohanim in the mishkan (tabernacle) and later the temple. The Levites who descended from Aaron became the Kohanim of the Jewish people. When the Levites were set apart, Moses numbered the firstborn of Israel to exchange them for the Levites (B’midbar (Numbers) 3:40-46). From that time on it became the obligation of every father to carry out this exchange, called Pidyon Haben, in which the firstborn is to be redeemed from his obligation to serve as priest and leader. The parents were to give the redemption price of five shekels of silver to the Kohen.
This ceremony is to take place when the child is 31 days old. If a father for whatever reason did not redeem his firstborn son, it becomes the responsibility of the son when he is older to redeem himself from a Kohen. The purpose of this Pidyon Haben ceremony is to free every firstborn son from his position as a priest in the sanctuary in order for him to assume his duties of providing moral leadership to his family and community. It is also traditional that when the firstborn is 13 years old he is to fast the day before the Pesach in commemoration of sparing of the first born in Egypt. The narrative in Luke 2:22-40 indicates that Miram and Yoseph went up to Jerusalem for a Pidyon haben ceremony for Yeshua and remained there ten days until it was time for Miriam’s purification (40 days after the birth of a son, Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:1-8)
From a Messianic perspective, Yeshua redeemed us. He was the firstborn of the father and offered Himself as the redemption price to redeem us. “He purchased us not with silver and gold but with His precious blood, as a lamb without spot or blemish. He was foreordained before the foundation of the world and was made manifest in these last times for you.” 1 Cephas (Peter) 1:18-20It was the Messiah who fulfilled this Pidyon Haben ceremony by offering Himself in our place as the firstborn so that we can become as it were the firstborn of His creation. (Luke 2:22-24; Yochanan (John) 3:16)
4. Blessing your child in infancy and early childhood
This blessing is imparted every week during the Shabbat as described above.
5. Bar/ Bat Mitzvah ( Son and daughter of the covenant)
Mishlei (Proverbs) 2:1-5 – One of the best-known customs of the Jewish people is that of Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This is an important milestone in the life of a young person. It is recognized as the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood and girlhood to young womanhood. Bar Mitzvah means “son of the commandment” and Bat Mitzvah means “daughter of the commandment.” According to Jewish understanding, this is the age of accountability and physical maturity: twelve years for a girl and thirteen for a boy. This is referred to as the “commandment of age”, “the age of majority” or a “religious coming to age,” and applies that all of the responsibilities and religious obligations of the Torah and Rabbis are now binding on the child. Up to this point, the parents are obligated to educate their child in moral behavior and observance of the commandments. Once the child reaches the age of accountability the law considers them adults and responsible to make moral decisions. Generally speaking, a bar/bat mitzvah marks the child’s first Aliyah. Minimally, during a Shabbat service after the child’s 13th birthday, the child is called up to the Torah to recite a blessing over the weekly reading. A young person who prepares for this rite of preparation is required to study Hebrew, learn their parasha and read it in Hebrew, present a Midrash (commentary).
It is also a special time of celebration for the young person with the giving of gifts and money. After the readings and sermonette, the child’s father often recites a blessing thanking Adonai for removing the burden of being responsible for the son’s sins (because now the child is old enough to be held responsible for his own behavior). It is common to give the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrant a gift to commemorate the occasion. Common gifts include books with religious or educational value, religious or Judaica items, writing implements, savings bonds or gift certificates. Because the Hebrew word for life is “life” is (“Chai”) also the Hebrew number 18, monetary gifts in multiples of 18 dollars ($36, $54, $180) are considered appropriate. Many also receive their first tallit from their parents to be used on this special occasion.
6. Marriage ( As above )
7. Blessing your parents in older age
In ancient Hebrew culture God made it very difficult for parents not to be blessed by their adult children in their older age. God placed the following two protective measures in their society to ensure the blessing and honor of older parents. Older people in general and parents in particular were held in high regard and treated with great respect. Adult children had a natural desire to honor and bless their parents when the parents had blessed them in the first six stages of life. Older people were considered sources of wisdom and experience to be treasured and respected (Prov.1631;20:29).
In Mark 7:9-12 Yeshua also spoke about the responsibility of adult children honoring their parents by making financial provision f or them in their older age.
In the seventh critical time of blessing the family roles reverse. In the first six stages of life, the parent blesses their children but in the seventh stage the children bless their parents. Proverbs 31:28 says the children of the virtuous woman rises up and blesses. her. Just as every son or daughter longs to hear a parent say, I love you, and I’m proud of you, so does every parent long to hear similar words from their children. Parents need to hear words of blessing from their children while they are still living.
Examples of blessing ones parents are:
i. The children writing a tribute to each parent conveying gratitude and respect and choosing a meaningful time to read and present it to their parents.
ii. The children giving their parents a place of true respect and honor in their hearts and convey to their parents that they are still needed and value in their lives
iii. Children convening this honor and respect to their parents in the presence of the own children and teaching their grandchildren to value and honor their grandparents.
iv. The children supporting their parents spiritually and emotionally through prayer, visits and regular communication.