Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vayichi I: The Connection Between Ephraim u'Menashe and A Bris

Personal note: I said this vort over at my son's bris six years ago and in honor of my nephew's bris later today (Wednesday 1/11) I am presenting it here.

The Targum Yonason ben Uziel says that the beracha of "yisimcha elokim k'ephraim u'menashe" is said at a bris. The peirush on the Targum explains that the Targum is referring to the beracha "zeh hakoton gogol yehiyeh k'shem shenichnas l'bris kain yechanes l'torah chupah u'maasim tovim", with the torah referring to Ephraim and "ma'asim tovim" referring to Menashe.
I think that we can really understand this based on the Netziv's comments in his commentary Hemek Davar on this .week's parsha The Netziv asks why did Yaakov go ahead and switch his hands so that his right hand would be on Ephraim. Why didn't Yaakov just go ahead and have them switch places.? He should have had Ephraim stand on the right and Menashe on the left. The Netziv answers that in reality Ephraim and Menashe represented two different ideas. Ephraim's purpose in life was to be strong in ruchniyus. This is seen from the fact that one of Ephraim's descendants was Yehoshua who replaced Moshe as the spiritual leader of Klal Yisroel.
Menashe on the other hand had a different tafkid in life. His purpose was to be strong in areas of gashmiyus, in particular the political arena. Menashe was by Yosef's side helping him rule Mitzrayim. Furthermore, one of the more famous descendants of Menashe was Gidon-a strong military leader. (Also see the Harchev Davar where the Netziv uses this mehalech to explain why sometimes Ephraim is mentioned first and sometimes Menashe is mentioned first).

The Netziv explains further that the feet represent the gashmiyus since the feet is what are used to move and take part in this world. Menashe had to be strong in the gashmiyus arena. Therefore, he had to stand on the right. Hands represent ruchniyus. Hands are always doing mitzvos and good deeds. Ephraim had to be strong in ruchniyus therefore Yaakov's right hand had to be placed on Ephraim.

With this Netziv, I believe we can now have a better understanding of the Targum Yonason ben Uziel. When we say "kain yechanes l'torah" we are referring to Ephraim who represents the Torah and inyanei ruchniyus. When we say "u'maasim tovim" we are referring to Menashe who represents the olam hagashmi and are interaction with this world on a physical level. We are blessing the child that he should be zocheh to be strong in both areas. However, we mention Torah/Ephraim first because ultimately that is the ikkar and the Torah is the detremining factor of how we should partake of the gashmiyus in this world.


1) I would like to add something my brother in law pointed out. He actually remembered what I had said 6 years ago (why he remembered it is an interesting story). Apparently, 6 years ago I ended the vort by saying the reason we give the child the beracha of Ephraim and Menashe is because we don't know how he will grow up-will he be an Ephraim or a Menashe.

2) The baby's name is Chaim Refael named after my sister on law's maternal grandfather.
It looks like there is one more CM in this world, which in my humble opinion is a good thing.

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