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In many Jewish homes on Shabbat, the head of the household would bless his sons to be like Ephraim and Menasheh but would bless his daughters to be like the matriarchs . What is the source, if any, for blessing daughters in this fashion?

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1 Answer 1

Excellent question.

Contemporary authority Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin addresses it in his work Bnei Banim, 4:10. (He has also translated some of his essays and responsa into English, but I don't know if this one is included.)

To the best of Rabbi Henkin's research, "may G-d make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah" is first suggested in the halachic work of Rabbi Yair Bachrach (late 1600s, Germany), but doesn't make it into a printed siddur until the 1830s -- whereupon it seems everyone picked it up.

Rabbi Henkin's personal preference is for something of a more Biblical flavor; Jacob had stated (Gen. 48:20) "you shall be used as a blessing, as people will say 'may you be like Ephraim and Menashe'"; similarly when G-d tells Abraham "and be a blessing", Rashi comments that people will bless each other "may you be like Abraham." Nowhere in Tanach do we find anyone saying "may you be like all the matriarchs."

What we do find, however, is Ruth 4:11, in which the townspeople bless Boaz by saying "may G-d make your new bride like Rachel and Leah, the two of whom built the House of Israel"

Rabbi Henkin therefore blesses his daughters with this version, noting that his wife still uses the more-traditional "all the matriarchs" blessing; and hey the more blessings the merrier, it's all good...

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Hmm, it seems that there's a typo in the tshuvah: "כדי שיוסף לא יכיר" should be "כדי שיעקב לא יכיר" in the paragraph ד"ה לכן in the third reason. –  b a Dec 25 '12 at 1:46

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