Parasha Inspiration – Vayechi

“And now, [as for] your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt, until I came to you, to the land of Egypt they are mine. Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine like Reuben and Simeon. But your children, if you beget [any] after them, shall be yours; by their brothers’ names they shall be called in their inheritance. As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and he said, “Who are these?” Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God gave me here.” So he said, “Now bring them near to me, so that I may bless them.” Now Israel’s eyes had become heavy with age, [to the extent that] he could not see. So he drew them near to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not expected to see [even] your face, and behold, God has shown me your children too.” And Joseph took them out from upon his [Jacob’s] knees, and he prostrated himself to the ground. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim at his right, from Israel’s left, and Manasseh at his left, from Israel’s right, and he brought [them] near to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and placed [it] on Ephraim’s head, although he was the younger, and his left hand [he placed] on Manasseh’s head. He guided his hands deliberately, for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph and said, “God, before Whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked, God Who sustained me as long as I am alive, until this day, may the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.” And Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, and it displeased him. So he held up his father’s hand to remove it from upon Ephraim’s head [to place it] on Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, Father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head. “But his father refused, and he said, “I know, my son, I know; he too will become a people, and he too will be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his children[‘s fame] will fill the nations.”

Genesis 48:5-19

This week’s Torah portion includes the adoption of Efrayim and Menasha. It is an interesting occurrence that rounds out the 12 tribes of Israel. The tribes are counted in different ways, sometimes Joseph is included, sometimes Efrayim and Menasha are included and Joseph is excluded. With the adoption of Efrayim and Menasha, there are technically 14 children of Israel. Only 12 of which are included in the count of the children of Israel, in any given time in Tanakh.

Efrayim, though he is not the first born, is granted the inheritance of the first born. Efrayim’s ascendancy is foretold by Joseph. This ascendancy is seen in the formation of the northern kingdom where Jeroboam, and Efrayimite becomes the first king. The northern kingdom is later conquered by Assyria and all those living in Efrayim, are carried off into exile.

Midrash explains to us that Efrayim and his tribe attempted to flee Egypt prior to Moses. Since this Exodus was attempted without Hashem’s help and blessing, it failed completely in the majority of the tribe of Efrayim died in the desert in the attempt to escape Pharaoh. The dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision are understood to be the remains of the tribe of Efrayim in the desert. It is for this reason that the number of people in Efrayim was small compared to other tribes at Sinai. Nevertheless, the tribe of Efrayim grew in power and numbers and ascended as Joseph foretold. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.