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What It Means to Be a Father

As my daughter Michal prepared to embark on her year of study in Jerusalem, I wondered what to say as my parting words. What would you say to a child going away?
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This year's Father Day will be different. It all began last summer at JFK airport.

As my daughter Michal prepared to embark on her year of study in Jerusalem, I wondered what to say as my parting words.

What would you say to a child going away? Would you say, "Have a great year," "Do not forget to Skype" or "I love you"?

Yet, moments before she left, out of the corner of my eye, I was struck by the image of a father placing his hands on his daughter's head. I realized immediately that he was offering her the priestly blessing: May God watch over you and protect you. May God shine his face upon you. May God grant you peace.

I paused and sensed intuitively that these words represented my hopes and aspirations for my daughter and the "right" goodbye. I took her aside, placed my hands on her head and invoked this timeless blessing.

The experience so touched me that as I left the airport, I felt the urge to begin blessing all of my children every Friday night. Yet, I had a challenge. Jewish tradition teaches that we abide by the custom of our parents. My father's tradition was to bless us only once a year.

I called my dad and shared my dilemma.

I will never forget what he said:

"If I had to do it all over again, I would have blessed you and your siblings every Friday night. How can you pass up a moment every week to look your child in the eye, offer a blessing and give them a hug."

With his permission, I began blessing my daughters every Friday night. It changes them and changes me.

The story does not end there. I shared the experience with my congregation. Soon after, I received an email from a congregant, "It is not too late for your father to start blessing you. He wished he had when you were a child but it is not too late. He is your father and you remain his son. "

I called my father and asked him if he would begin blessing me every Friday. He now lives in Israel so it would be a long distance blessing but I knew that words would transcend space. He, of course, agreed and now every Friday morning (due to the time difference), he invokes the timeless blessing and gives me a virtual hug.

I learned that to be a father means to live inspired, possess humility and never miss an opportunity to bless your child.