Vayechi – What Blessing Should Parents Give Their Children?

Vayechi – What Blessing Should Parents Give Their Children?

Thursday, January 5th, '12

In this week’s Parsha, Yosef presents his children, Efraim, and Menashe, to Yaakov for a Bracha. Instead of giving them a Bracha, Yaakov asks, “Who are these [children]?” Rashi explains that Yaakov would not bless them because when he looked at Efraim and Menashe his Ruach HaKodesh left him. The reason? A spiritual defect was present nin Efriam and Menashe. From Efraim would come Yeravam and Achav; from Menashe would come Yehu ben Nimshi.

So Yaakov asked “Who are these two?”

Yosef answered:בני הם אשר נתן לי ה’ בזה.

Yaakov then blessed them. The blessing was: “Regarding you will the Jews bless [others] saying, ‘May Hashem make you like Efraim and Menashe.”

First question: Why did Yaakov suddenly change his mind about blessing the two children? Nothing changed the fact that Achav and Yehu and Yeravam would come from them. Nothing changed the original blemish that Yaakov saw. So why did he change his mind?

Also, what did Yosef mean when he said בני הם אשר נתן לי ה’ בזה? First, why did he have to say “that Hashem gave me.” We all know that children come from Hashem! Second, what did he mean by his last word “bezeh”? (See Rashi for what the Medrash says on this).

And in general, this Bracha that parents give their children – “May hashem make you like Efraim and Menashe” – what does it mean? In what way are we asking the children to be like Efraim and Menashe? Tzadikim like them? Wise people like them? It doesn;t say. The Bracha does not say what specifically about Efriam and Menashe we are blessing our children with.

And, why do only parents use this Bracha? The Posuk does not say that parents will bless their children by Efriam and Menashe. It says Jews will. Yet only parents use this Bracha. When people go to a Rebbe for a Bracha, you do not find that he would say “May Hashem make you like Efraim and Menashe.” How did this Bracha become the exclusive blessing used only by parents?

And, finally, not only is this blessing used only by parents, bu tit is used by all kinds of parents. Not every parent is on the level of giving out Brachos (except of course on the level of Brichas Hedyot), yet for some reason, all parents, regardless of their qualifications, somehow suddenly become big Rebbes and start meting out Brachos. it does not say in the Posuk that this Bracha is available to anyone any more than any other blessing. It says that Jews will bless each other using this blessing. But why is this Bracha different than all other Brachos in that it is meaningful even when given by people without any special qualificaitons, more so than any other Bracha?

Imagine what was happening when Yaakov refused to bless Efraim and Menashe. It must have been very humiliating for Yosef. His brothers were all there, and even though Yosef forgave them for selling him, the complaints they had against Yosef were never really settled. The brothers who presumably were still jealous of their father’s love for Yosef were suddenly validated. Yaakov loved Yosef more than all of them and now they saw Yosef’s children exposed as unworthy of even a Bracha from their grandfather. The brothers must have felt that Yaakov would now see that Yosef was not all he thought he was.

Yosef on the other hand, must have been humiliated. He brought the tidings of his brothers’ wrong doing to Yaakov all that time, and now it was his own children that were exposed as spiritually blemished.

When Yaakov asked “Who are these blemished children?” Yosef could have easily distanced himself from them – the way Yitzchok distanced himself from Esav and the way Avraham distanced himself form Yishmael. He could have saved himself all that embarrassment by disowning his children on the spot. He could have stepped forward and said, “Efraim and Menashe? Spiritually stained kids! Leave my house and don’t come back!”

He could have done that. Avraham disavowed Yishmael. Yitzchok disavowed Esav. Yosef could have done the same to Efraim and Menashe.

But instead, when Yaakov demanded to know “Who are these spiritually stained children?” Yosef stepped forward and proudly said: בני הם אשר נתן לי אלקים בזה – They are my children. “They are my children that Hashem gave me בזה – with this blemish that you see in them.

“They are my children,” he said. “Hashem gave them to me and they are mine. Hashem gave them to me bezeh – the way they are.”

“They are my children, meaning, Yaakov, You see bad people coming from them – well guess what? Those bad people come from me, too! Because Banai Heim – they are my childrne. hashem gave them to me the way they are and that’s how I accept them. They are my children. Regardless of what imperfections you see in them. They are mine. Hashem gave them to me that way. They are no less mine than your children are yours. בני הם – they are my children and the imperfections they have , I share as well. I accept them as they are as my G-d-given children.”

Yaakov heard that, and he said to himself, ‘With a father like that, these children will be fine. With a father that proudly stands up for his children despite their imperfections, these children will be great.”

And, in addition, he said to himself, “And now I found an appropriate Bracha for them.”

Yes, these children have spiritual blemishes, but I know that they will survive and flourish because they have a father like Yosef. And there’s the Bracha.

May everyone be like Efraim and Menashe – meaning, may everyone have a father like Yosef that stands proudly by them, the way Efraim and Menashe do.

That is why Yaakov changed his mind. he could not find an appropriate Bracha for these children. But after Yosef did what he did, the Bracha is now: May everyone have what these children have.

May everyone have a father like Yosef.

A father that proudly accepts them as their G-d-given children the way they are – Bezeh.

Yaakov had no idea that this Bracha was available until he heard Yosef stand up for his children.

When the father puts his hands on his children’s head and solemnly blesses them ישמך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה what he means is, “May I be the same type of a father to you that Yosef was to his children.” You don’t have to be a big Rebbe to give this blessing. You have to be a good father.

And that is why only fathers use this blessing.

Because only fathers can make it come true.

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