Thursday, January 04, 2007

Vayechi by Reb Jay

This parsha, the last in the Book of Bereshis, 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 brocha. This brocha is so special that for all future generations, when parents bless their sons, it will be done using the names of Ephraim and Menashe, as Yaakov says before giving them the brocha: “By you shall Israel bless” (Bereshis 8:20; Girls are blessed using the names of the 4 mothers: Sorah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.)
What was so special about Ephraim and Menashe, that for all future generations, boys would be blessed to aspire to be like them?
Yaakov knew that Klal Yisroel is destined to spend much of its existence in Golus (this is a quality that makes us unique among the nations, as what other nation/culture has spent more of their exsistence in exile, then in their own land?). Yoseph was the first person in the nation of Israel to rear his children in a foreign land.
When Yaakov saw that Yoseph had risen to the challenge and raised children in golus who were worthy of being part of Beis Yaakov, he used them as the standard bearer for all future generations. To show that the foundation of Klal Yisroel is not based on location, but on Torah. As Rav Sa’adya Gaon wrote in Emunah V’Daos, “our nation is a nation only by virtue of the Torah”.
To 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 DNA to resist assimliation, but would also be a lesson of how to go about doing so.

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