A Strange Choice

One of the most eloquent traditions of the Jewish Sabbath is blessing children.

On Friday evening before dinner, parents will bring their children close, put their hands on their heads, and whisper a blessing in their ears.

The customary blessing for boys includes the hope that they “are like Ephraim and Menasche.” Ephraim and Menasche were the two sons of Joseph and his Egyptian wife.

Their grandfather Jacob gave them a special blessing before he died. Aside from this appearance, they do not play major roles in the Biblical narrative.

It seems strange, therefore, that the rabbis chose to use Ephraim and Menasche as the role models for young boys. Surely they could have chosen more important figures: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or even Moses. Why these two?

Perhaps because Ephraim and Menasche were the first brothers in the Bible that got along.

Every prior set of siblings fought intensely. We recall Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. After so many generations of conflict, we finally encounter a pair of brothers who do not harm one another.

In fact, they get along so well that the older brother does not protest when their dying grandfather signaled his preference for the younger brother when he used his better hand to bless him. (Genesis 48)

By selecting Ephraim and Menasche, the Jewish sages sought to teach a lesson. Peace begins in the home. It is the the most beautiful vision of peace. And the one that is hardest to fulfill.

Modeling ourselves on Ephraim and Menasche is the way we get there. It is the first and most challenging step toward shalom. You can take the next step toward Shalom by experiencing the devotions and prayers in Shalom for the Heart.

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