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In the standard Friday night blessing for children, the girls are blessed using the original passuk in the masculine, same as the boys.

A long time ago, I was criticised by a secular person for blessing a female with the standard text of the priestly blessing, because the standard text is in masculine.

My retort was "we don't change the wording of Hashem's Torah" and gave some reasons for that.

However, it's stuck in my head ever since then, and every time I do it, there's a slight hesitation "this feels wrong".

Just wondering if there are any sources to back up this person's point, that one might consider a change of the gender of the blessing, an alternative blessing, or something less drastic, but along the same lines? Do our sources bring this up anywhere (even if the final ruling is not to change) so I can review the discussions?

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    This reminds me of a picture I saw of some Chabad gathering in Times Square where they did a massive hagabah of 100 or so Sifrei Torah, and it seemed to me that one was supposed to say "V'Eleh ha Torot," but, as you said, we don't change the words of the Torah, so it's "V'zot HaTorah" Commented May 1 at 7:36
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    @יהושעק you feel me. And yes, I would just like to note that I am not questioning if it IS right, just looking for any sources that discuss the point.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 1 at 11:54
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    I remember looking this up when our daughter was born, and I concluded one should not change the language. I see R David Sperling wrote about this here but without rationale
    – mbloch
    Commented May 1 at 12:53
  • I checked Piskei Tshuvot as he speaks of the topic (271:1) but he doesn't answer your question - since he's pretty comprehensive that will make it difficult to answer
    – mbloch
    Commented May 1 at 16:53
  • @mbloch I am very grateful for that, thank you. You are right, seems there probably isn't any discussion about this (which satisfies my curiosity)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 1 at 21:51

1 Answer 1

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There is a discussion I found here (in Hebrew) regarding changing pesukim in general, and the person then applies this to changing Birkat Kohanim to feminine for the reasons brought below.

I will try to translate and add/delete some stuff to make it flow better:

In the Mishnah in Megillah 10:4, the Mishnah lists several matters written in the Torah and the Prophets regarding which the question arises whether it is appropriate to read them in public. The Mishnah also discusses whether it is appropriate to translate them during the reading into a language understood by the general public, as was customary in synagogues. Among other things, the Mishnah mentions the incident of Reuven, which is read as it is but not translated, and the incident of Tamar, which is read and translated.

Regarding, Birkat Kohanim the Mishnah says, "It is neither read nor translated," but the Rif and the Rosh bring another version of the Mishnah which says, "It is read but not translated." This means that Birkat Kohanim is not translated when read in public. From this, it can be understood that there is extra caution in saying Birkat Kohanim and we can infer that this would also apply in changing the wording of the pasuk from masculine to feminine.

The Gemara (there) briefly states that the reason for this is because it says ' ישא, and Rashi explains that there is a concern that those hearing the translation might think that Hashem shows favoritism to Bnei Yisrael, although it says, "אשר לא ישא פנים ולא יקח שחד." In our context, note that the Mishnah deals with the reading of verses and the translation of verses into Aramaic in public. In the case of a father's blessing to his daughter on Friday night, it is not a public setting, and the verse is said in its original language. Therefore, these two concerns do not apply here.

The Rosh brings a law from the Tosefta in Masechet Megillah which says, "הכתובה לרבים אין מכנין אותה ליחיד ליחיד אין מכנין אותה לרבים,” this means that when there is a word in all of Tanach written in the plural, it should not be changed to the singular, and vice versa. This law, along with the special caution regarding reading saying Birkat Kohanim in its original wording, is the basis for those who rule that the wording should not be changed from masculine to feminine in the case of the blessing on Friday night.

However, the halachic authorities do not necessarily follow this path. The Rambam, in Hilchot Tefillah 12:12, brings the Mishnah's prohibition regarding the reading of the Torah in public, but not regarding every citation of the pasuk. The Rema emphasizes that the Tosefta's prohibition against saying a verse in the singular when it is written in the plural and vice versa applies to the translation of the pasuk, not to its actual recitation. The Rosh mentioned above brings Rabbeinu Yonah in the context of changing pesukim from Tehillim and limits the prohibition to a whole paragraph of tefillin. However, one who recites individual pesukim as part of his prayer may change from singular to plural and vice versa. Following this, and with the agreement of Rabbeinu Yerucham, Tur, and the Shulchan Aruch, the prohibition of changing from singular to plural and vice versa does not apply when one recites a pasuk in the context of prayer and supplication.

In conclusion, from all the sources combined, it is permissible to change the wording from masculine to feminine in the specific context of the bracha a father gives his daughter every Friday night. We have seen that according to the sources, it is possible to change the wording of a verse in the context of tefillah, provided it is not a whole paragraph. Although there is a reason to be cautious specifically with the Birkat Kohanim, a father's blessing to his daughter does not meet the conditions that require such caution. We are only saying one of the verses of the section, and it is not a public reading of the Torah or a translation of the verse.

Although the Minhag Haolam is to keep the birkat kohanim pasuk in masculine for women on Friday night, the person is right in the sense that there is no issur done if we change it to the feminine form, and it would therefore be better since it more directly addresses the women (and actually in Sefer Shirat Hayam Page 458 it says that Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap blessed his granddaughter for birkat kohanim Friday night in the feminine). However many Gedolim were hesitant and therefore we should all keep it masculine.

Hope this helps!

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  • Excellent! As thorough as can be, and answers every last detail of my question, from probably all of the relevant sources. Couldn't ask for more, thanks for your time I really appreciate it!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 20 at 17:01
  • No problem, happy you liked it! Commented May 21 at 3:13

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