Parshas Vayechi:
A Lasting Blessing

Rabbi Chaim Ehrman as heard from Rabbi Shimon Schwab.

Yaakov Avinu is on his deathbed. He is ready to bless his children and leave this world. Prior to the blessing of his children, he blesses the children of Yosef, Efraim and Menashe. His blessing is that the Jewish people, from now on, will bless their children to grow and follow in the footsteps of Efraim and Menashe. The obvious question arises, why did Yaakov choose Efraim and Menashe as a role model for the Jewish People? Avrohom or Yitzchok or even Yaakov himself would seem to be much greater role models. After all, they were the Avos (Patriarchs) while Efraim and Menashe, with all their greatness were not. It must be that there was something special about the blessing received by Efraim and Menashe which determined that this was the blessing which would be appropriate for all the generations to come.

    When one gives a blessing, it is customary to say, "Bli Ayin Hara" – there should be no evil eye. What does an "evil" eye mean? An eye is a biological part of a body that Hashem created: how can there be evil in an eye?

    Hashem gives blessing to an individual due to certain merits or zechuyos. However, if this blessing causes others to commit aveiros, such as jealousy, Loshon Horo, Rechilus, Motsi Shem Ra, then Hashem may remove the blessing. Although the recipient was indeed worthy of the blessing, Hashem would not want others to sin and commit aveiros because of a blessing. An "evil" eye simply means an eye that sees blessings bestowed on one individual and covets those blessing, becomes jealous and commits all kinds of sins which will cause the removal of the blessing.

    There is no doubt that there are many righteous people, Tzaddikim, who were greater that Menashe and Efraim and were appropriate role models for the Jewish people. However, the blessings that these righteous people received did cause jealousy and ill-will. For example, the blessings that Yaakov received caused immense hatred and jealousy from his older brother Esav: the blessings Yitzchok received generated animosity from his older brother Yishmael: Avrohom had to abandon his homeland and family to receive his blessing.

    Efraim had just been singled out by Yaakov to become a leader of the Jewish nation. Yaakov crossed his hands in order to place his right hand, the stronger hand, on Efraim. Menashe, the older brother, observes the added blessing given to Efraim, and he makes not a single comment. There is no jealousy, no anger or animosity. On the contrary, Menashe is happy to see his brother rise in leadership and responsibility. Only Yosef was concerned and wanted Menashe to be blessed by the right hand. This happiness that Menashe portrayed when seeing the added blessings given to his younger brother is the very reason why Yaakov chose Menashe and Efraim to be role models in receiving blessings. There certainly was no "evil" eye here! Additionally, one could add that in blessing our children to be like Efraim and Menashe, it is this very idea that we are trying to convey. In blessing our children, we ask that they merit to be like both Efraim and Menashe. To be like Efraim, who was the greater of the two, yet also to be like Menashe who showed such great inner strength in ceding the blessing to Efraim wholeheartedly, demonstrating a capacity to put communal good ahead of personal gain.



Thursday, January 08, 1998


Rabbi Chaim Ehrman is a frequent participant at the Chicago Community Kollel's learning sessions. If you have any questions or comments about this week's Parsha Encounters please email him at



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