Like Ephraim and Manasseh

Imagine a world where fathers openly affirm their children by speaking blessings into their lives every week. That world is called the Sabbath.

Vayechi (ויחי | He lived)

Regular Shabbat Readings

READ / LISTEN TO THESE PORTIONS

  • Vayechi (ויחי | He lived)
  • Torah: Genesis 47:28-50:26
  • Haftarah: 1 Kings 2:1-12
  • Gospel: John 13:1-19

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Genesis 47:27 | The Last Days of Jacob
    • Genesis 48:1 | Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons
    • Genesis 49:1 | Jacob’s Last Words to His Sons
    • Genesis 49:29 | Jacob’s Death and Burial
    • Genesis 50:15 | Joseph Forgives His Brothers
    • Genesis 50:22 | Joseph’s Last Days and Death
  • PROPHETS
    • 1Ki 2:1 | David’s Instruction to Solomon
    • 1Ki 2:10 | Death of David

Portion Summary

The last reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayechi (ויחי), which means “and he lived.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, “Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years” (Genesis 47:28). In this Torah portion, Jacob prepares for his death by securing a double portion of inheritance for Joseph and then blessing each of his sons with prophetic blessings. The book of Genesis ends with the death of Jacob, followed shortly by the death of Joseph and a promise of redemption from Egypt.


Jacob laid his hands on Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and bestowed a blessing upon them. He declared that the children of Israel would henceforth bless their own children, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!” In Jewish families, on Friday nights, while the family is gathering around the Sabbath table, the father lays his hands on his children and blesses them. To his sons he says, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” To his daughters he says, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah.” He blesses each of the children with the words of the priestly benediction and, as he feels led, other words of encouragement and blessing.

Why would a father, on the one hand, bless his sons to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, while on the other hand, blessing his daughters to be like the matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah? Why not also ask that his sons be like the noble patriarchs?

The answer is in the Torah. Just before Jacob declared that Israel would bless their sons to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, he himself finished bestowing a blessing upon Ephraim and Manasseh. If we look more closely at the blessing he gave them, we discover that through this blessing he transfered the Abrahamic covenant and promises to Joseph’s sons. Just as Jacob had received the blessing from his father, Isaac, who received it from Abraham, he passes it on now to Ephraim and Manasseh:

The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. (Genesis 48:15-16)

When Jacob asks that his name and the names of his fathers may live on in the boys, he is asking that they will walk in the same blessings and covenant relationship that God bestowed upon the patriarchs. So essentially, this blessing is equivalent to saying, “May God make you (Ephraim and Manasseh) like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” When we bless our sons, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,” the actual blessing in view is the blessing Jacob spoke over the boys. It’s not that Ephraim and Manasseh were so wonderful that we want our boys to be just like them. Instead, we want our boys to blessed with the same blessing they received from Jacob. We want them to be reckoned part of the covenant and blessings God bestowed on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

When we bless our sons to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, we are asking for their inclusion in the Abrahamic legacy of covenant and blessing, a perfect symmetry with the matriarchal blessing over our daughters. (Click to Source)

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