In the movie Fiddler on The Roof, I cry when I see this part of the film, because God is so real to me, and because I long for my fathers blessing, but he is no longer on the earth. I am jealous of the rich culture of the Jewish people, and this prayer is so meaningful to me, so I hope that there is much behind it...

Here are the words:

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers' ways.

May God bless you and grant you long lives.
(May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)

May God make you good mothers and wives.
(May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

My questions are:

I want to know about its Authenticity, the History behind the song, most of all about the real traditions that are really behind it. If there is a specific Story behind it, I would really love to hear about it. Thanks ahead of time.

  • 8
    AFAIK, the song and its lyrics were composed for the musical and although there is an idea to bless the children on Erev Shabbos the exact wording here doesn’t come from a traditional source.
    – ezra
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 4:15
  • 4
    @ezra True. Though note that the chorus ("May the Lord protect and defend you...") is similar enough to the traditional blessing ("May the Lord bless you and protect you...") that it could probably be called a "creative translation" with poetic license rather than a completely original composition. Furthermore, although Ruth and Esther are not the individuals named in the female version of the traditional prayer, the idea of blessing the children to be like biblical heroines is also directly from the traditional blessing.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 13:25
  • 2
    Though the words are not traditional, this song is thematically very similar to the traditional Sabbath blessing for the children.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


As @ezra commented, the song and lyrics were composed for the musical. The concept of blessing the children on Friday night is an ancient custom in some families/communities (the earliest written source I found was 1500s in Sefer HaChaim, but the custom originates before that).

Traditionally, the parent will place both hands on the head of each child and bless them.

The main body of the blessing is the biblical Priestly Blessing, headed by a blessing for the child to grow to be (sons:) like Ephraim and Menashe, or (daughters:) like the four matriarchs, Sarah, Rebbeca, Rachel and Leah.

This is the wording of the traditional Jewish blessing for sons (courtesy of Aish.com):

(Aish.com transliteration and translation of blessing.

This is the blessing for daughters:

enter image description here

The Sefer HaChaim explains that this blessing is specifically given on the Sabbath, because the wellsprings of blessing are open on Sabbath, making blessings more effective. Additionally, there are inevitable disagreements and family dynamics which can cause a father to be angry with his son; to counter this, there is a once-weekly positive connection where the father blesses his child.

For further background of this blessing, see this article on Aish.com

  • The "ancient" custom you reference doesn't distinguish sons and daughters. The gender-specific fixed texts you brought is a more recent innovation. Moreover your original source speaks of blessing children and students on shabbat, not something specific to parents or Friday night.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 12:35
  • Is one obscure source from the 1500s really considered "ancient"? Clearly the vast majority of Jews weren't doing this even in the 1500s and almost no one if anyone was doing it for the many millennia before that. "but the custom originates before that" How do you know that?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 12:39
  • 2
    @DoubleAA - The custom of blessing children weekly traces it's way a couple of hundred years before that, at least to the time of the Maharil (1300s); see Aruch Hashulchan (YD 400 who quotes the Maharil's custom to abstain from blessing children on Shabbos during Aveilus - ומהרי"ל לא היה מברך הילדים בשבת שבתוך אבלות כדרכו בכל השבתות דאין זה ממילי דפרהסיא). (See Darkei Moshe OC 559:4, however, who implies the Maharil's custom was to do so on Motzei Shabbos)
    – chortkov2
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 16:26
  • @DoubleAA - I haven't looked very far, but the specific text for daughters dates back at least to the late 1600s; R Yair Bacharach mentions it in one of his sefarim. {See Bnei Banim 4:10 who doesn't like this variation}
    – chortkov2
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 16:31
  • 1
    It's not a contradiction; Maharil did it both on Fri night and Sat night (like the german custom fri night and sat night) though it seems like that his practice כרדכו was unique at the time. And R' Henkin notes that but shows it wasn't in widespread use for till the mid 1800s. Look, clearly there is such a custom in some families, but this answer presents a particular variation of it as "ancient" and uniform instead of a more balanced varied perspective
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 16:42

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