“So he [Jacob] blessed them that day, saying, “By you shall Israel bless saying ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe…”Bereishis 48:20
Before Jacob passes away, he gives blessings to all of his children. To his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, he gives the special blessing that they will be an example for all of the generations to come; parents will bless their children that they should be just like Ephraim and Menashe.
Indeed, every Shabbos night, and on the eve of Yom Kippur, parents give their children the blessing as Jacob said: “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”
Rebbetzin Jungreis (of blessed memory) points out that “At first glance, this elevation of Ephraim and Manasseh is somewhat puzzling…”
What’s the big deal with Ephraim and Menashe? There were many unique traits in Jacob’s children worth focusing on; why single out these two to be the model when we pray for strong Jewish children today?
Rebbetzin Jungreis explains: “These two boys grew up in Egypt, in a land that was renowned for its immorality, corruption, and decadence. Moreover, they grew up in the opulence and luxury of the palace and, more significantly, they were the only Jewish children in the land of Egypt. And yet, despite it all, their commitment and faith in God remained unwavering and they were as dedicated to Judaism as the sons of Jacob were.”
When the people around you have the same values as your family, it can be much easier to maintain – and continue to develop – those values. Conversely, if the majority of the people around you have different priorities, and spend their time and energy on things that are antithetical to your values, it can be challenging to swim against the current and stay true to who you are.
Today, as Jewish people, we often find ourselves in situations where our core values are challenged. Our forefather Jacob instituted this blessing for all time, so that we can remember the steadfast resolve with which Ephraim and Menashe clung to who they were, in an environment that strongly encouraged them to let go.
May we all be like Ephraim and Menashe – when it comes to our timeless Jewish values – hold on tight!