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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayechi


Rabbi Stewart WeissTevet 12 5779
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Our Sedra - though it does contain the deaths of both Yakov & Yosef, bringing that unique era to an end – centers around blessings, particularly those given by Yakov to his offspring. But the first of these Brachot will be bestowed upon Yakov’s grandchildren, Efraim & Menashe, who become the model for all future boys to be blessed. Many ask what was so special about Efraim & Menashe, & why did the younger child, Efraim, merit to receive his preeminent bracha before the elder Menashe?

I suggest that there is one answer to both questions. If there is one family flaw, one malady that has plagued us thru the generations, it is that of intense sibling rivalry. Yitzchak vs. Yishmael. Yakov vs. Esav. The brothers vs. Yosef. It is precisely because Menashe says nothing & does not protest Efraim’s blessing that these two boys are eternalized as a paradigm of Jewish love & unity.

Certain key individuals in our history nurture & guide us, like a loving mother. They are represented by the letters Alef & Mem, which form the word, Aym, or mother:

Adam, the first human being, begins with an Alef & ends with a Mem; Avraham, the first Jew, begins with an Alef & ends with a Mem; Aharon & Moshe’s initials are Alef & Mem; Esther & Mordechai’s initials are Alef & Mem.

Add to this prestigious company Yosef’s sons. So crucial is it that we Jews – who regard one another as Achim, brothers – get along with each other & learn to co-exist, that we choose to bless our sons with the hope that they will be like Efraim, & especially like Menashe, who voiced no protest, no jealous reaction to his brother’s blessing.

I suggest this is also why Yakov cryptically said of E & M, "They will be to me like Reuven & Shimon!" True, these were Yakov’s first 2 sons. But they certainly weren’t his pride & joy; Yehuda or Yissachar might have been better choices. But Reuven & Shimon were instrumental in throwing Yosef into the pit; perhaps Yakov is saying that Efraim & Menashe, via their brotherly love, will be the tikun, the correction, for the cruel actions of their uncles.

There is, of course, one more Alef & Mem combination – the most important one of all - that is yet to come. That, of course, is the team of Eliyahu & Moshiach. They will arrive on the scene when all the diverse Jews of the world – observant, secular, Sefardi, Ashkenazi, Chasid & Mitnaged, convert or natural-born - have learned to focus on the positive merits of our fellow Jews rather than accentuate their differences. B’ezrat Hashem, with lots of left-Mem - Ahava & Mesirat Nefesh - we shall get there.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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