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Full-Circle Blessing

Wow, I remember thinking. That’s so beautiful. She does that, like, every day?


I thought it was very sweet the first time I witnessed it. I still thought so by the fifth time, and I like to think my opinion didn’t change by the tenth. But by then I was already part of the family, and had learned to smile at the predictability of it, like everyone else.

As a kallah, I flew to my husband’s hometown for an extended Shabbos. On Friday morning, as my father-in-law was leaving for work, my mother-in-law called out an urgent, “Wait!” and rushed to the front door.

“Hashem yishmorcha mikol ra, yishmor es nafshecha…” I heard her murmur. “Hashem yishmor tzeis’cha u’vo’echa mei’atah ve’ad olam …”

Wow, I remember thinking. That’s so beautiful. She does that, like, every day?

It was summertime, and the kids were home, but one little brother was in a special program, and my chassan and I were going to bring him there. Right before we left, Ima came to the door, pulled little Dovi close to her, and again, the same parting words: “Hashem yishmorcha mikol ra…”

Over the years I got used to that parting brachah. I won’t say it was a family joke, because no one actually made fun of it, but it certainly was a routine the kids sometimes copied. Okay, maybe even smirked while they did.

When we’d take leave of my siblings-in-law after getting together, someone would inevitably drawl the first few words of their mother’s brachah, perfectly imitating her Midwestern twang. “Hashem yishmorcha…” Even the neighbors’ kids were in on it, and as bochurim, when they’d leave my in-law’s house after a Shabbos seudah, it was a given that one of them — or all — would stop at the door and intone the by-now predictable words as they slapped each other on the back. Ha, ha, how cute.

Thinking about it now, I see the discrepancy between the weight with which my mother-in-law imparted those words and the casualness and almost nonchalance with which her recipients received them. When one of her boys got into trouble in school, he’d come home and say — only half kidding, “Well, Ima didn’t bentsh me this morning, so what do you expect?”

A good decade and a half after my marriage, one of my younger brothers married the daughter of dear friends of my in-laws, and got into the habit of visiting my in-laws whenever they were in town. Imagine my surprise when after a visit to my home, my brother got ready to leave and said, “Take care, good night! Hashem yishmorcha mikol ra…” and gave a perfect rendition of Ima’s famous parting words! Oh, how we all laughed, and I immediately called Ima to inform her that her brachah was making its rounds.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 657)

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