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Wednesday, December 30, 2009


So Yaakov is ill and Yosef comes to see him bringing his two sons, Efraim and M'nashe.

Yaakov gives a little rundown of the revelation he had of God on his way out of his parents' home. He then asks Yosef who he brought with him! Why did he need to ask?

The Torah points out that Yaakov's sight was dim. Yaakov was all too aware of the blessing he received from his blind father while pretending to be Esav, his older brother. Presumably, Yaakov wants to be certain he is bestowing the correct blessing on the correct grandson. We'll speak a bit more about that tomorrow, though.

פרק מח

(יג) וַיִּקַּח יוֹסֵף אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם אֶת אֶפְרַיִם בִּימִינוֹ מִשְּׂמֹאל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת מְנַשֶּׁה בִשְׂמֹאלוֹ מִימִין יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּגֵּשׁ אֵלָיו:
(יד) וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת יְמִינוֹ וַיָּשֶׁת עַל רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם וְהוּא הַצָּעִיר וְאֶת שְׂמֹאלוֹ עַל רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה שִׂכֵּל אֶת יָדָיו כִּי מְנַשֶּׁה הַבְּכוֹר:

Genesis Chapter 48

(13) And Yosef took them both, Efraim in his right hand to the left of Israel and M'nashe in his left hand to the right of Israel and he presented to him. (14) And Israel sent his right hand adn placed it on the head of Efraim and he was the younger, and his left on the head of M'nashe. He made his hands wise for M'nashe was the first born. 

So Yaakov purposely puts his right hand on the younger of the two. The key word in the Hebrew is שכל sikel. This is the same root as the word sechel which is often understood to mean common sense. It is interesting that the word משכיל maskil from the same root is understood in biblical context to mean 'succesful.' See for example Samuel I 18:14:

And David was successful (maskil) in all his ways and God was with him. 

What is the relationship between success and common sense? Or wisdom? Well, we'll think about that one. 

In our story, though, the word sikel is particularly interesting. This is the first use of the word in the Torah. It seesm in context to mean that 'he made his hands wise' or 'clever' or somehow directed his hands to the right place. In short, the word is trying to point out that Yaakov was aware of what he was doing as he explains to Yosef a little later on. 

The next verse says:
טו) וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת יוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמַר הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלְּכוּ אֲבֹתַי לְפָנָיו אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק הָאֱלֹהִים הָרֹעֶה אֹתִי מֵעוֹדִי עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה:

15) And he blessed Yosef and said "The Lord before whom my fathers Avraham and Yitzchak conducted themselves, The Lord who shepherds me from my very existence until this day....

We will examine the rest of the blessing tomorrow. I want to point out, though, that the Torah says that even as Yaakov is holding the heads of his grandchildren, he is blessing Yosef. In fact, he will bless the grandchildren later. But why did Yaakov have to hold his grandchildren in order to bless his son? 

More tomorrow.

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