Ephraim & Menashe
Example of Ephraim and Menashe
portion, the last in the Book of Genesis, closes out the story of Yaakov and his
children. Yaakov, realizing it is near the time of his death, wishes to bless
his children. Before he does this, though, he calls over Yoseph and his two
sons, Ephraim and Menashe, and gives them a special blessing. This blessing is
so special that for all future generations, when parents bless their sons, it
will be done using the names of Ephraim and Menashe: “By you shall Israel
bless” (Gen. Ch.48 v.20) [Girls are blessed using the names of the 4 mothers:
Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah].
was so special about Ephraim and Menashe, that for all future generations, boys
would be blessed to aspire to be like them?
after having wrestled the Angel of Esav, merited the name of Yisroel (Israel).
Thus began the period of nationhood of the people of Israel (as opposed to the
period of the three fathers and four mothers which constituted a phase of
individuals). The nation began with the children of Yaakov, who all grew up by
his side, with the exception of Yoseph. Yoseph, through a series of events which
can only be labeled as Divine Providence, was sold as a slave and eventually
rose to power as Prime Minister in Egypt. He was the first person in the nation
of Israel to rear his children in a foreign land.
rear children anywhere is a difficult task, but particularly in a country as
morally corrupt as Egypt. Nonetheless, Yoseph ensured that his sons were reared
in the paths of his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This great act
of rearing children properly in such adverse conditions would not only imbue
future generations of Jews with the spiritual D.N.A.
to resist assimilation, but would also be a lesson in how to go about it.
understood that as a descendant of the three fathers and four mothers, and by
virtue of his own relationship with G-d, he had a certain responsibility to rear
his children in a G-dly manner. Although his children spoke Egyptian (as
evidenced by the fact that they served as interpreters between Yoseph and his
brothers), Yoseph ensured that they were proficient not only in Hebrew, but also
in the study of Torah (as evidenced by the fact that they were immediately able
to assimilate with their cousins, uncles, and grandfathers once they arrived).
we see the premium which Yoseph placed on his children having the same type of
education he had, although in different, even hostile, surroundings.