Perashat Vayehi 5778
Perashat Vayehi 5778Friday, December 29, 2017
Every Friday night Jewish parents around the world bless their children as Ya'akob Abinu proclaimed in this week's Perasha: "By you shall Israel bless saying, 'May God make you like Efrayim and like Menashe' ".
Why is it that we bless our children to be specifically like Efrayim and Menashe? Wouldn't it be more fitting that we bless our children to be like our founding forefathers, Abraham, Yisshak and Ya'akob?
I will venture to offer two explanations.
During the course of reading Sefer Beresheet we encounter many sets of brothers: Kayin and Hebel, Yisshak and Yishmael, Ya'akob and Esav, and Yosef and his brothers. Notably, none of these siblings ever got along. Efrayim and Menashe, break this pattern. They are the first set of brothers that live together without any animosity. Even after Ya'akob purposely switches his hands while giving his grandsons a blessing, placing his right hand, usually reserved of the eldest child, on the younger Efrayim's head rather than on the head of the older son, Menashe, we see that there is no rivalry or jealousy between the brothers. On the contrary, there was complete love and respect between them. Therefore, we too want to bless our children to have unity amongst themselves, as there is no greater blessing than peace amongst siblings. As it says in Tehillim "Hine ma tob uma na'im, shebet ahim gam yahad", "How good and pleasant it is for brothers to sit peacefully together".
Rabbi Shimshon Hirsch offers another explanation as to why we give our children the blessing of Efrayim and Menashe. Our forefathers, Abraham, Yisshak and Ya'akob, raised their children in the Land of Israel, the Holy Land in which the environment is most conducive to raising good Jewish children, and where, according to the Gemara, the air makes you wise. However, Efrayim and Menashe were the first of Ya'akob's descendants born and raised in exile, away from their true homeland and the center of holiness, Ya'akob's home. Despite great odds, surrounded by pagan immorality, Yosef successfully raised Efrayim and Menashe to maintain their adherence to the ideals of the Torah and remain faithful to their Jewish values. He was so successful, that his sons became recognized as the sons of Ya'akob in their destiny as two of the twelve tribes. As it says, "Efrayim and Menashe shall be mine like Reuben and Shim'on" [Beresheet 48:5]. Thus, in giving our children the Berakha to be like Efrayim and Menashe, we are expressing our hope that our children will have the resilience to withstand the temptations of exile, and keep a strong Jewish identity.
These two explanations really go hand in hand. If our children understand the importance of being unified with their brethren, they will succeed in keeping their Jewish identity. The converse is also true; success at preserving our Jewish identity will insure the unity of Am Yisrael.
Apr 20 2019
Nisan 15 5779