web analytics
October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Generations Forget and Remember

It is not difficult to understand the care Joseph took to ensure that Jacob would bless the firstborn first.
Rabbi Sacks

The drama of younger and older brothers, which haunts the book of Bereishit from Cain and Abel onwards, reaches a strange climax in the story of Joseph’s children. Jacob/Israel is nearing the end of his life. Joseph visits him, bringing with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. It is the only scene of grandfather and grandchildren in the book. Jacob asks Joseph to bring them near so that he can bless them. What follows next is described in painstaking detail:

 

Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh in his left hand towards Israel’s right, and brought them near him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn….

When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”

He blessed them that day, saying:

“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. (48: 13-14, 17-20).

 

It is not difficult to understand the care Joseph took to ensure that Jacob would bless the firstborn first. Three times his father had set the younger before the elder, and each time it had resulted in tragedy. He, the younger, had sought to supplant his elder brother Esau. He favored the younger sister Rachel over Leah. And he favored the youngest of his children, Joseph and Benjamin, over the elder Reuben, Shimon and Levi. The consequences were catastrophic: estrangement from Esau, tension between the two sisters, and hostility among his sons. Joseph himself bore the scars: thrown into a well by his brothers, who initially planned to kill him and eventually sold him into Egypt as a slave.

Had his father not learned? Or did he think that Ephraim – whom Joseph held in his right hand – was the elder? Did Jacob know what he was doing? Did he not realize that he was risking extending the family feuds into the next generation? Besides which, what possible reason could he have for favoring the younger of his grandchildren over the elder? He had not seen them before. He knew nothing about them. None of the factors that led to the earlier episodes were operative here. Why did Jacob favor Ephraim over Manasseh?

Jacob knew two things, and it is here that the explanation lies. He knew that the stay of his family in Egypt would not be a short one. Before leaving Canaan to see Joseph, G-d had appeared to him in a vision:

Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes. (46: 3-4)

This was, in other words, the start of the long exile which G-d had told Abraham would be the fate of his children (a vision the Torah describes as accompanied by “a deep and dreadful darkness” – 15: 12). The other thing Jacob knew was his grandsons’ names, Manasseh and Ephraim. The combination of these two facts was enough.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Generations Forget and Remember”

  1. Yechiel Baum says:

    we did not forget your hateful words in the british parkiment against Jewish Israel when you sold us out. Now oyu want to speak nicely in the USa in hope that when you die, you can be buried in a Jewish cemetery? Lets see if the queen who knighted you will lets you rest in peace in ****ingham palace.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Judaism Stories
PTI-103114

People love their GPS; just type in the address and it tells you exactly how to get to where you want to go.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

In the same way as a married woman is precluded from marrying another man without a get, so too is this widow prohibited from marrying another man without chalitzah.

Daf-Yomi-logo

The Ban Of The Communities
‘Impaired Chalitzah’
(Yevamos 26b)

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

“My mother raised us to independence, all of us,” Rivka says, which certainly plays itself out in the fact that all three children have taken a different path.

“ ‘We’re almost out of stamps,’ I said. ‘I’ll be happy to run over to the post office and pick up a supply.’ ”

Bris Bein Habesarim affirmed that Hashem gave the land to Avraham’s children. It does not specify for how long. It did not guarantee the Jewish people eternal ownership of the land

According to the Raavad if one who is uncircumcised breaks something he will be exempt from paying for it since he was chayav kares at the same time as he was obligated to repay for the item he broke.

Why does Hebrew refer to mothers-in-law as “sunshine” when society often calls them the opposite?

Having herself been victimized by Pharoah, Sarah should have been more sensitive to Hagar.

Avram’s father was not impressed with the cleverness of his son. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he took him to Nimrod the king, who pronounced him an enemy of the state and attempted to execute him.

How do the stories in Lech Lecha help us understand the central tension of Abraham’s life, legacy?

Abraham did not govern society but instead was the representative of God’s kingdom on earth.

Hagar grossly miscalculated her own merits and demonstrated a serious lack of gratitude for Sarai.

Noach was the lonely man of faith living in a depraved world, full of wickedness.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Rabbi Sacks

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

Sukkot’s duality is that it’s the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals

When we cry from the heart, someone listens; When we cry on Yom Kippur, God hears us.

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

Torah isn’t a theological treatise or a metaphysical system but a series of stories linked over time

We believe that God created each of us, regardless of color, class, culture or creed, in His image.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/generations-forget-and-remember/2013/12/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: