Before the Shabbat meal, it is customary for the parents to bless their children. This blessing is known as Birkat Habanim. Actually, there are two separate blessings recited, one for boys* and one for girls.

The blessing for daughters refers to the four Matriarchs of the Jewish people: “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”(Y’see’maych Eh-lokim k’Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, v’Leah.)

The Matriarchs–Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah–were raised in homes and environments filled with idol worship and immorality. (Laban, the father of Leah and Rachel, was a well-known thief and con-artist.) Nevertheless, the Matriarchs used the force of their personalities and spiritual inclinations to live righteous lives set apart from falsehood and idolatry.

The lives of the Matriarchs also exemplify concern for others. For example, Rebecca not only thought to offer water to Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, but also to bring water for his ten camels (Genesis 24: 12-25)

Finally (of course, there is more, but time is at a premium), examining the lives of the Matriarchs can teach us much about prayer, patience and gratitude. Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel all had difficulty conceiving children and turned to G-d, praying that He fulfill their greatest desire–that they be blessed with children–which He did at the time that was right for them. While Leah had fewer problems conceiving children, when each child was born, she expressed praise and thanksgiving to God, recognizing that God had seen her plight as the less-loved wife.

These women were each outstanding individuals, possessing extraordinary personal integrity and strength. By blessing our daughters in their names, we teach our daughters to learn from them and to emulate their lifestyles.

*The blessing for boys was “Treated” last Friday. Click here to view it in our archive.