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hanah tovah! At the beginning of a new year, people spend a lot of time blessing each other. Of course, a brachah from a simple Jew, as we know, should not be taken lightly — but the formula of a simple Jew's brachah is not always so memorable. Not so our gedolim. Here are five top ways different gedolim expressed their brachos to Klal Yisrael.

 

1. The Satmar Rebbe

When giving a brachah, the Divrei Yoel once emphasized v’sabeinu mituvecha — you should be satisfied with the good. It’s a phrase we say often in davening. But why the emphasis on being satiated? Isn’t “good” good enough? He explained, based on a Gemara (Yoma 74b), that a person who cannot see the food he’s eating is never truly satisfied. The Satmar Rebbe gave a brachah that the good that you experience should fill you up the same way you’re satiated from the food you can see. Good shouldn’t be an abstract concept, nor the kind of good we only appreciate years later or in the Next World. His brachah was for a good you could taste and appreciate right before your eyes. 

 

2. The Lubavitcher Rebbe 

Beginning in 1986, every Sunday the Lubavitcher Rebbe would receive a public audience. Lines would snake outside of 770 and, in what became the famous “dollar” line, the Rebbe would give a short blessing and a dollar bill to each person who passed. Why did the Rebbe hand out a dollar while giving his brachos? The Lubavitcher Rebbe did not want passive chassidim who just received brachos. He wanted active participants. With each dollar, the recipient became a shaliach of the Rebbe to give tzedakah. Or, as the Rebbe said, “When two Jews connect, it should benefit a third.” 

 

3. Rav Ovadia Yosef 

Rav Ovadia’s brachos became iconic not so much for what he said, but for what he did as he spoke. Those who merited receiving a brachah often simultaneously received a gentle slap or a pinch on the cheek. Whether it was a child, a businessman, or an Israeli dignitary, Rav Ovadia would give a gentle slap or pinch like a proud zeide to his grandchildren. 

 

4. Rav Chaim Kanievsky 

Rav Chaim’s brachos tell a lot about his gadlus — and the austere life he lives. For many years he gave a “brachah v’hatzlachah” to visitors. As the line of people who came to see him grew, he exchanged “brachah v’hatzlachah” for the more verbally economical acronym “buha.” This should come as no surprise. During a leap year, Rav Chaim often spends the extra month writing a sefer. He treats the time afforded by an extra month or a few extra seconds of a brachah with the same seriousness and thrift.

 

5. Rav Dovid Cohen 

I have been both a recipient and witness to a rather unique brachah formulation from Rav Dovid Cohen, rav of Gvul Yaavetz in Brooklyn. When asked for a brachah, he replied with a grin, “Stay out of mischief!” It was clear from his smile and the glimmer in his eye that he knew he was delivering the brachah to someone who was mischief-prone, and that mischief, too, can be transformed into brachah. 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 726)