In this week’s parsha we read of the brachos Yaakov Avinu gave to the shevatim. Two brachos in particular have become an essential part of every Jewish home. Every night before we go to sleep we say or sing HaMalach HaGoel. In addition, in many Jewish homes, Friday nights finds the father blessing his children with Yisimcha Elokim k’Efraim u’k’Menashe.
What is the connection between going to sleep and HaMalach and Leil Shabbos and Yisimcha Elokim? And why did Yaakov Avinu choose Efraim and Menashe to be the standard bearers for all of Klal Yisrael throughout the generations? While it goes without saying that Efraim and Menashe were great tzaddikim, so were the rest of the shevatim.
There are many wonderful explanations, but I would like to focus on one given by the Bnei Yissachar. When Yaakov switched hands, he says, it was because he saw, b’ruach hakodesh, that Yehoshua, a descendant of Efraim, would be greater than any of Menashe’s descendants. However, it frightened him. He knew that jealousy had played a great role in what had happened between Yosef and the shevatim. He was concerned that giving Efraim precedence would create a rift in a new generation. Yet, after saying Hamalach, he noticed that nothing had changed. Efraim was not any prouder for having been put first and Menashe was not jealous that he took second place. Yaakov was so overcome that he gave his grandsons an extra bracha – may all of Klal Yisrael be like you, free of pride and free of jealousy.
The root of the division between Yosef and his brothers was that instead of recognizing that they each had unique roles, they compared themselves to each other. Both jealousy and pride begin when we don’t see ourselves as unique individuals with different goals. Efraim and Menashe understood that comparisons are meaningless. Efraim felt no pride in what happened because he knew it wasn’t his accomplishments that had caused him to be elevated, it was Hashem. Menashe felt no jealousy because he knew he had his own role to fill. This is what Yaakov wanted all future generations to realize. Each one of us has his own role and path – so there is no reason to be jealous of another person. Hashem gives each of us what we need. If we are smarter, funnier, or richer it’s because we were given these as gifts from Hashem. And, if we don’t have what someone else does it’s because Hakadosh Baruch Hu knows we don’t need it.
A shop owner had a competitor who was more successful than he was. He kept an eye on all his competition and did his best to copy all their avenues of success. Yet, he was not successful. He went to his rebbe in frustration and said, “Rebbe, I am always checking out the other store. My store is just as nice, with similar pricing, and in a comparable neighborhood and yet he is so much more successful than me?!” The Rebbe answered, “It’s simple. Your friend has only one store to run so he is doing nicely. You are busy with two stores, your own and your competition. My advice is to start working exclusively on your own business and forget about the other store.”
True success can only come if we stop looking and stop comparing.
The whole week we are busy with work and it’s easy to forget that it’s not about our efforts, that it is Hashem who runs things. On Shabbos we make Kiddush and remind ourselves that He is the Creator and Conductor. We give our children the bracha of Yisimcha Elokim, the same one given to Efraim and Menashe who understood that everything comes from Hashem and is part of a greater plan.
What about HaMalach?
The Gemara explains that fish are unaffected by ayin hara, as they are hidden from sight. One gives another person an ayin hara when he looks at him and judges – “They don’t deserve that family, house, or job.” We know that the more you judge others the more you yourself are judged. Yosef and his descendants were given the bracha of Vayigdu larov, to be like fish and free of ayin hara.
Each night before we go to sleep we remind ourselves that Hashem is in charge. We won’t look at what we don’t have and what others do. Instead we will focus on accomplishing our purpose with all the tools Hashem has given us. If He thinks we need something to fulfill our tachlis He will give it to us.
May we be zocheh to look inwards and see our own chashivus and the gifts we have been given by Hashem. And may we use those gifts to make Hashem’s name great.