From the Anash.org inbox: I was 13 years old, my friend and I were schmoozing on the couch after the seudah when her father beckoned to her; it was time to give her Birchas Habonim. As I watched her, I felt the familiar smarting behind my eyes, and could barely swallow thanks to a giant lump in my throat.
Erev Yom Kippur, 2010.
I was 13 years old. My friend and I were schmoozing on the couch after the seudah when her father beckoned to her; it was time to give her Birchas Habonim. As I watched her I felt the familiar smarting behind my eyes, and could barely swallow thanks to a giant lump in my throat.
Although I had long been resigned to my reality of having no father, or any male relatives for that matter, and this familiar scene replayed itself year after year, somehow it never got any easier; on the contrary, missing out on this bracha was hitting me particularly hard for some reason.
However, being a teenage girl, I didn’t have any desire to go up to my friend’s father and ask him; it felt weird: not tznius, not appropriate, and not my place. I turned my face away so they wouldn’t see the tears streaming down my cheeks, and bit my lip hard, burying my nose deeply into a book to stem the sobs sure to erupt at any moment.
My friend, however, was a lot more perceptive than I gave her credit for; not only did she see my poor attempt to prevent a scene, she instantly understood why. No words had to be said; she simply brought me over to her father and said “Ta…what about her?”
For the first time, I received Birchas Habonim, and over a decade later I still get emotional thinking about it. My mother got married shortly thereafter, Baruch Hashem, and I finally had someone to bentch me, but I’ll never forget the simple kindness of my friend or her father.
In fact, I soon learned that I was not the only child who felt this loss of normalcy keenly. My mother’s friend spoke of a fatherless boy, a ben bayis in their house, who, for two years, would become visibly angry when Birchas Habonim was given to the children. He didn’t have the words to express himself, and additionally, it felt tantamount to begging.
Children lacking a parent already feel the loss and difference between them and their friends keenly. Often, it’s a question of preserving whatever dignity we feel we still have. When it started happening a third year, some well-meaning friends turned to the friend’s husband and asked the same thing my friend asked her father: “What about _____?” He received Birkas HaBonim forthwith, and it was never a problem again.
How many children like this do you know? Boys and girls who have no father, or even a grandfather, uncle, or brother, to give them this special bracha, or to stand under the tallis at Birkas Kohanim. This is a reminder that you shouldn’t forget about them this Tishrei. Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh. If you have the zechus to bentch your children, maybe extend the offer to a child who doesn’t have that figure in his or her life. Don’t make it a big deal; presumably, this child is already a part of your child or family’s life, so consider this child like you would your own. I can assure you that even if they don’t have words to express it at that time, he or she will never forget it.
Name withheld upon request.