In this week’s sidrah, Vayechi, we find the source for the traditional blessing recited by parents on Friday nights at the Shabbat table. This custom, in which children approach their parents, bow their heads, and wait to be blessed, is an important component of family relationships. It shows respect and offers an opportunity to praise the achievements of the children.
As a child, I was told a story about a group of secular Russian immigrants to Israel who were sat around a communal seder table. Since Pesach is the festival of redemption, the Rabbi officiating at the seder made references to the Mashiach (Messiah) and to the final redemption, only to receive several blank faces in response. They found the entire messianic concept laughable – that someone should turn the world upside down and cause such a sudden change was, in their words ‘fantasy, not reality’.