Friday, January 01, 2010

placing Ephraim before Menashe

Ya'akov tells his grandchildren that future generations will be given the bracha, "Yesimcha Elokim k'Ephraim v'kMenashe," and in case we failed to notice, the pasuk tells us, "Vayasem es Ephraim lifnei Menashe," that Ya'akov placed Ephraim before Menashe (48:30).

Why does the pasuk state the obvious? Furthermore, the Ksav Sofer further asks: if Ephraim was the greater of the two, why not just give a bracha to be like Ephraim and bichlal masayim manah, the lesser bracha of Mensashe would be automatically included in the greater bracha of being like Ephraim?

Ephraim and Menashe each had unique qualities. Ephraim shone in his dedication to learning at the side of Ya'akov; Menashe shone at handling practical affairs of state. Yesh bichlal masayim manah applies when measuring quantities, but does not apply to qualitative differences. Ya'akov felt that the value of learning which Ephraim represented was superior in importance to the practical knowledge of Menashe, but one cannot exist without the other. The Torah stresses that Ya'akov placed Ephraim first, but the qualities of both children have to be transmitted to give complete bracha.

But this begs the question: So what if Menashe and Ephraim had different natures and Ephraim showed talent in those areas Ya'akov felt had more importance -- why didn't Ya'akov just give Menashe, the older brother, a bracha that he should embody those same important traits rather than reverse the order?

R' Chatzkel Levenstein explains with respect to the brachos of the Shevatim that a bracha can enhance a latest talent, it can help a trait flourish and grow, but it cannot make something from nothing. The isha haShunamis had to have a jug and a drop of oil for the bracha of more oil to be given to her, but without that no miracle could take place. Hashem gives each of us unique talents because those are the tools and keys to our individual shleimus and achievement of our individual mission. Menashe cannot be made into an Ephraim, but he can be given a bracha to achieve his potential in avodas Hashem using his own individual gifts.


  1. I believe the Netziv has a similar remark.
    Also Rabbi Willig in his hakdama to his Am Mordechai on Berachos has a simialr idea b'arichus

  2. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Is the comment on this blog true?