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Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Vayechi

This week, the Chief Rabbi explains the Biblical precedent for family disagreements.

Grandparents should keep shtum, they should not mix. But might there be situation in which a rare exception to such conventional wisdom could be made? We find one in Parashat Vayechi.

Yaakov, who was blind at the time, was just about to die. Prior to his death he summoned his two grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, in order to bless them – and through them, to bless all subsequent Jewish generations.

Yosef lined up the two boys in front of him. Menashe at Yaakov’s right hand and Ephraim at his left.

But then Yaakov crossed his hands over and Yosef panicked. He shouted out, “Lo Chein Avi” – “Not so father!” Yosef dreaded a scenario in which the lessons of the previous generations would not be learnt. He knew what had happened when Yaakov had bought the birth right from his twin brother Eisav. He knew what had happened when he was favoured by Yaakov over his older brothers. And now Yaakov, the grandparent, was creating a situation in which, yet again, the younger child was going to be favoured over the older child.

Yet Yaakov would not listen to Yosef. He said to him, “Yadaati Vni Yadaati – My son I know exactly what I am doing.” And he proceeded to bless the boys in that way. How could Yaakov have done this?

I believe Yaakov wanted us to recall for all time, the reaction of Menashe to his younger brother being favoured over him.

What did Menashe say? Absolutely nothing. He did not cry out. He did not complain and that’s the whole point.

Yaakov predicted this because he had been studying with these children. He had seen them in their home in Egypt. He was impressed to see that in the home of Yosef and Osnat, the position of the ‘Bechorah’ – the birthright was immaterial. The important thing was that everyone in the family should get on well together.

So Yaakov created this scenario to show that the boys would be blessed as the best of friends. And it was in this spirit that Yaakov continued, that for all subsequent generations, we should bless our children to be just like Ephraim and Menashe.

Within a healthy family environment every child is unique and every child is special. And yes of course, one might be born before another but every child should know that their parents love them as much as they love the other children.

In the spirit of this lesson imparted to us by Yaakov Avinu, may we all be blessed to have homes which are filled with peace and togetherness – homes in which our children are just like Ephraim and Menashe.

Shabbat Shalom


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