Parshat VaYechi

In Parshat Vayechi, Yaakov is nearing the end of his days. Yosef becomes aware of this and goes to Yaakov with his two children, Manasseh and Ephraim to get a bracha for them. The story of how Yaakov blesses them is very famous; with Yaakov criss-crossing his hands to put his right hand on Ephraim, the younger child, and his left hand on the older child, Manasseh. However, this story almost did not happen.

When Yosef brings Manasseh and Ephraim to Yaakov to receive their blessing the pasuk says the following: “Vayar Yisrael et bnei Yosef ,vayomer mi eleh” “And Israel saw Joseph’s sons and he said “Who are these?” (Bereshit 48:8). This pasuk does not make sense in this context because it is obvious who they are. Who would Yosef bring to his dying father to get a bracha ?? Of course it’s his children!!! There is absolutely no one else that would be logical for Yosef to bring to Yaakov besides his two children. So why is there so much confusion? Rashi comes to our aid and explains this question. Rashi says that the reason why Yaakov was so confused was that the Shechinah left his presence when Ephraim and Manasseh came to him. The reason explains Rashi is that the Shechinah left Yaakov at that moment because of Ephraim and Manasseh’s descendants. From Manasseh came the evil king Jehu and from Ephraim came the evil kings Jeroboam and Ahab. Yaakov prayed to Hashem that he will have mercy (which Hashem did and returned to him) and then was able to bless Ephraim and Manasseh. .

A few psukim later, Yaakov is literally about to bless Manasseh and Ephraim. He puts his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s head. This confuses Yosef who thinks that it is proper for Yaakov to put his right hand on the elder, Manasseh, and the left hand on Ephraim. The explanation that Yaakov gives is Ephraim’s offspring’s will be greater then Manasseh’s. Rashi comments that Ephraim’s main offspring will be Yehoshua, who will lead Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael after Moshe’s death; and Manasseh’s main offspring will be Gideon, who will unify the tribes and overthrow the Midianites.

So why is there such a big difference between these two stories? Literally, psukim before Yaakov is unsure of who these guys are and if they are even fit to be blessed. Besides for Yosef telling Yaakov that they are his children and proving it, what has changed? Why is Yaakov talking about Ephraim and Manasseh’s descendants in a positive way right after talking to them in a negative way? When we look at a person, we are critical of them. Rarely do you see a person and only think of positive things of them and judge them favorably. Even if you have the same bad personality trait as your friend, you will probably think that you are good and that they are bad. Once you judge somebody, the perception will stick. However, Yaakov was such a big tzaddik that he was able to tell that yes Ephraim and Manasseh will both have bad descendants but on the other hand, they will also have good descendants thus deserving the bracha. He even goes on to bless them that future generations should be like them. Yaakov was able to get over the bad and think of the good, a very amazing trait that we as Am Yisrael should strive for. This week we fasted for Asara B’tevet, a fast day remembering the beginning of the process of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. The reason the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed was because of baseless hatred, and because of this the gemara says that the way to rebuild it is through baseless love. We should learn from Yaakov, our patriarch, how to see the good in everyone and love them. Through this, we should, b’ezrat Hashem, have the merit to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash b’mhera be’yameinu.

Student studying in Yeshivat Lev HaTorah