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Parashat Vayechi

It's Cold Outside

A question that often bothers parents is: How can we bridge between the differences in the education and values within the family to that of the society around us.

And not only in regard to the Jewish aspects…This question is also relevant on subjects such as smoking, alcohol, drugs. How much influence does a parent’s preaching actually have on a child’s education? How much are they influenced by their peers?

In this week’s portion we find such tension.

Jacob our father knows his days are numbered, and he calls upon his 12 sons, to pass down to them their blessings and spiritual inheritance.

But first, he blesses his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

“And he blessed them that day, saying: 'By thee shall Israel bless, saying: May G-d make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh.' (Genesis 48, 20).

We recognize this dialogue from the “Birkat Habanim”, the blessing that parents say over their children on Shabat and on Yom Kippir. The question is why were Ephraim and Manasseh rewarded with this honorary position in Jewish tradition. Why not bless: “May G-d make thee as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, just as girls are blessed “May G-d make thee as Sarah, Rebbekah, Rachel and Leah”.

Rabbi Shmuel Hominer Z”L gives us an answer in his book “Eved HaMelech”:

From all the Tribes, Ephrayim and Menashe were the only ones who were born and raised in Egypt, deep in its defilement. They hosted all the State's Ministers and Wise men at their home as it was customary to do as Second to the King. They lived for many years there, in a foreign land, away from the Holy land and away from their ancestors. Not like the ten Tribes that were raised at the Home of Jacob our father. With Jacob's spirit as their inspiration, and even, when they came to Eretz Israel from Haran, they were lucky to be with Isaac.

When Jacob arrived in Egypt he learned that Ephraim and Manasseh were not attracted by the Egyptian defilement. They were not impressed by it and learned nothing of the nation's traditions or manners. On the contrary, he saw that they were raised by Joseph, in the righteous ways of the Torah and God fearing, so much so that they were found worthy of being included in the Twelve Tribes.

Rabbi Shmuel Hominer’s words are very relevant; he points out that these children had the largest potential to choose a different path. How long will family values be able to stand up before threatening surroundings of defilement?

“God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh" is not an insurance policy…It is a prayer from the depth of our hearts that our children will follow in our footsteps, because it gets cold out side.

Weekly Torah Portion

Old Hebrew Prayer Book
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