The Younger Child Wins Again!

The blessing that is given to Jewishchildren before they go to sleep each night as well as the blessing of the children at the Shabbat table are both found in Parshat Vayechi.

The first blessing is (Breisheet 48:16) "HaMalach HaGoel oti mikol ra yivarech et haniarim vikarey bahem shmi uvishem avotai Avraham v'Yitzchak viyidgu larov bekerev haaretz", "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the children, let my name be named on them and the name of my fathers Avraham and Yitzchak and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

The second blessing is (Breisheet 48:20) "Yesimcha Elokim k'Efraim u'ChiMinashe", God shall make you as Efraim and as Menashe"" (The girls are blessed with a variation on the theme, May God make you like Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah).

These blessings are such an integral part of our lives that we almost forget their origins. They were given by Yaakov shortly before his death to Menashe and Efraim (Yosef's sons). When Yaakov gave these blessings, he intended for Efraim (the younger son) to receive the firstborn blessing. This once again disproves the rule that the firstborn son becomes the primary inheritor. In the case of Yitzchak and Yishmael, Yitzchak was the inheritor, even though Yishmael was Avraham's firstborn. In the case of Yaakov and Esav, Yaakov was the inheritor, even though Esav was the firstborn. In the case of the twelve tribes, Yosef received one portion more than his brothers even though Reuven was the firstborn.

In the cases listed above, it is pretty clear why the firstborn was not the primary inheritor, they were clearly not worthy (ex: Esav) or not from the right mother (ex: Hagar, Leah).

The question is why would Yaakov feel that Efraim was more worthy than Menashe?

Rashi quotes the Midrash in Tanchuma which states: Yaakov saw that in the future Yehoshua would be a descendent of Efraim. Since Yehoshua would be the one to take possession of the Land of Israel and teach Torah to Israel, Efraim received the blessing "the younger brother will be greater than the older and the fame of his descendants will fill the nations (Breisheet 48:19)."

We can see from Yaakov's blessings that he put a strong emphasis on taking possession of the land of Israel as well as on teaching Torah.

May we all merit the opportunity to study Torah in the Land of Israel.