Student Teaching in the New Millenium

A Nation of Houses (5772 Vayechi)

In Genesis on January 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I bless my children,
then visit our neighbors,
and bless their children.

1 Kings 2.1 – 2.12
Genesis 47.28 – 50.26

What is the meaning of Jacob’s blessing for Ephraim and Manasseh?

And he blessed Joseph, saying,
The God in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day —
The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm —
Bless the lads.
In them may my name be recalled,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.

(Genesis 48.15-16)

Why does the Torah teach that Israel blessed Joseph, saying “bless the lads”? Ramban explains that the blessing extends to all children of Joseph after Ephraim and Manasseh, who would be absorbed into their tribes. How can this be?

Joseph isn’t referred to as a tribe, traditionally, because the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were his. Therefore, Joseph was not one but two tribes. This is an essential part of his double blessing, and what makes Joseph different. How does this change things? Joseph is a house, composed of tribes, like Israel. We’ve seen that Joseph’s brothers are tribes only, seeing no further than themselves and their father. Could they be saying to themselves individually, “I am the true tribe of Israel”? Israel affirms his own sons’ union in Israel by acknowledging Joseph’s sons in Joseph AND Israel: many families are one family. Israel says of them in them may my name be recalled. Israel in microcosm.

Is Solomon’s appointment as King of Israel simple selection or a blessing? Is Solomon’s being but a little child (1 Kings 3.7) a trait ideal for leadership? Where is true blessing found, in traits or titles?

Consider this: today we bless our children in the names of Ephraim and Manasseh. Does this constitute a blessing of ourselves? Do our children bless us in the name of Joseph? When our parents bless our children, their grandchildren, do they bless us as well?

Shouldn’t we make ourselves for blessing by all children? Why stop at our own?

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