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Positive Environments

By: SFW Students & Alumna
Talia Rona (SFW ‘09)

This dvar torah is dedicated leiluy nishmat my great- aunt, Esther bat Ephraim, who passed away last week, and for my grandfather, Akiva Yitzchak ben Yosef, whose yarzheit will be this week. 

The pasuk in Bereishit:48:20 states: “Vayevarchem bayom ha-hoo lemor becha yavarech yisrael lemor yesimchoh elokim ki-ephraim u-ki-menashe…”- “So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you shall Israel bless saying, ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe…’”

Yaakov Avinu was on his deathbed when he summoned his son, Yosef, and two of his grandchildren, Menashe and Ephraim, so that he could bless them before his passing. The blessing that he gives them is that when parents in future generations bless their children, they’ll bless them to be like Ephraim and Menashe.

Many wonder why specifically did Ephraim and Menashe, out of all the other shevatim, merit to be a sign and example to the children of Bnei Yisrael in future generations?

Yalkut Lekach Tov quotes HaGaon Rav Shmuel Hominer, zt”l, in his sefer Eved Hamelech: Out of all the shevatim, only Ephraim and Menashe were born and grew up in Egypt, which was a land submerged in impurity. Officers and magicians and high officials of the king were constantly traipsing through their home, as their father was the viceroy to Pharaoh. They were in a foreign land, far away from the holy Eretz Yisrael, and from their grandfather who was such a great role-model for them. This does not apply to the rest of the shevatim. They were raised in the house of Yaakov Avinu, whose spirit inspired them every day, and with their grandfather Yitzchak Avinu, whose positive influence constantly surrounded them.

Yaakov realized when he came down to Egypt that despite the tumah atmosphere that they lived in, Ephraim and Menashe did not learn from the traditions and manners of the Egyptians. Alternatively, he saw that they were raised according to the ways of their father, Yosef haTzaddik, who led a life of Torah and Yirah. They remained untainted from the ways of the Egyptians so much so that they were worthy of being counted among the twelve tribes.

Their father Yosef was definitely a positive influence for them, as we can see from various Rashis throughout the parsha. In 48:12, the pasuk states “…vayishtachavu le-apav artzah.”- And Yosef prostrated himself with his face toward the ground. Normally, prostration is an expression of thanks, so one would expect Yosef to bow after Yaakov blessed his sons, not before. But here it was a form of respect, rather than of thanks.

Another instance that we see a positive trait in Yosef is when Yaakov met up with Esav. Rashi learns, in Ch. 49 Verse 22, that all the mothers stood before their children at this meeting. In contrast, Yosef’s mother stood behind her children, with Yosef leading the pack. He thought to himself: “This wicked man, Esav, will see my beautiful mother with his scheming eye, and desire her. I must stand in front of her in order to protect her.” This was an act of reverence toward his mother.

Reaching this level of avodat Hashem was not easy for Ephraim and Menashe. There’s no doubt that there were many hard tests that they had to overcome and obstacles that stood in their way because of the filthy environment that they lived in. In spite of this, with the help of Yosef, they continued to march in the ways of their holy fathers. His persistence in keeping Torah umitzvot kept his kids on the right path.

There are a few lessons we can take from this. When a man blesses his children, he should have the kavana in mind that they should only go in ways of Torah umitzvot and not be influenced by the impurities around them. Furthermore, we learn how important it is to constantly put yourself in a moral setting, no matter what point you are up to in life.

We in Sha’alvim for Women should be so thankful to be in this environment of Torah and given the opportunity to study here in Eretz Yisrael and use every moment we are given here to the fullest. We should take advantage of all the positive influences available to us here, especially our amazing teachers and rebbeim. May every child in Yisrael be uplifted to the level of Ephraim and Menashe and may we all have a great Shabbos! 



Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Vayechi