I dedicate the following divrei Torah l’ilui nishmas the Tenog (unnamed baby) bas Chana Leah.


Last week, I simply ran out of time to assemble and send out a Parsha post.  Everything is meant to be though, for as I was learning Shabbos morning, Hashem led me to discover the subject of the lesson I am privileged to share with you now.


In traditional Jewish homes, a classic scene and cherished moment on Leil Shabbos (Friday night) before Kiddush, is when parents bless their children.  The words that define the blessing for sons exclusively, mark their place in this very parsha of Vayechi!

One of the last deeds Yaakov Avinu performed before his passing in Egypt, was bless his son Yoseif’s two children, Menashe and Efrayim.  He included the following promise in his bracha:

Vay’varcheim bayom hahu laymor ‘B’cha yevareich Yisrael laymor ‘Y’simcha Elokim k’Efrayim v’chi’Menashe”…. – And he (Yaakov) blessed them that day, saying ‘By you shall Israel bless, saying ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh”…  {Bereishis 48: 20}

Menashe and Efrayim were good boys, and children of Yoseif haTzadik, with their roots in the House of Yaakov.  But still, the question has been posed, of why do we bless our children in the names of Efrayim and Menashe?   Why not by Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon or Dovid, the Patriarchs and the Greats?  What is so significant about Menashe and Efrayim?

Menashe and Efrayim were the first Jewish children born in Galus.  They were raised as Egyptian nobles, and grew up in the midst of Egyptian society.  Nevertheless, they were neither steeped in nor influenced by Egyptian spirit and culture.  They leaned Torah, and were dedicated students of their grandfather Yaakov; at their essence and cores, they were true sons of Israel.  They remained distinct, and never forsook their holy heritage.

Tragic but true it is to note, that when young Jews leave their communities, schools, and Jewish environment as they mature, they are at risk of “going off the derech (right path)”…  and many unfortunately do.  That is just the way of our world.  There are innumerable distractions, and ever so many voices and vices that attempt to lead us astray.

Therefore, we pray for our children to always remain strong against the current – to be the “Ivrim” (literally ‘those on the other side‘) – and to remain true to who they are.  We pray for them to hang onto their beliefs and traditions wherever they go, and to live in sincere and full accordance with the Torah spirit.  It takes strength… and this is what we bless them with.

Many of our ancestors were compelled to dwell in lands and among peoples adverse to the Torah way.  Just look at Avraham and Sarah, who descended to Mitzrayim; Yitzchak and Rivkah, who lived in Philistine Gerar; Yaakov and his family, who built a household and worked in Charan.  They all triumphed over the challenging circumstances, and passed it on to the next generations for all eternity.  Their tenacity and success is woven, as I often quote, into “our spiritual DNA.”  That potential is locked within us, but we must pray to unleash it, to allow it to manifest and truly make a difference.

I was very moved by a story I once read in R’ Yechiel Spero’s book A Touch of Chizuk.  It was about a heartbroken chassid who came to meet his Rebbe, to ask for guidance in a difficult time.  With tears streaming down his face, he relayed his plight to his leader, that his son – his beautiful, talmid-chacham son – had abandoned to Torah path.  For his whole life his son had observed his father’s minhagim and chumros (customs and stringencies), and he’d been raised in a household immersed in ruchniyus.  The man absolutely couldn’t figure out a reason why this had happened, regardless of how hard he thought.  The Rebbe was quiet, and after the chassid finished speaking, he asked pointedly: Did you pray for him?  Did you pray for him that he would hold fast to what you taught and showed him, or did you simply expect him to remain that way?

Prayer is the key, and the bracha of “Y’simcha Elokim k’Efrayim v’chi’Menashe,” is relevant and necessary for all Yidden.

May you find the strength.

— The Messenger Bird