And Yosef saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim's head,
and it displeased him. So he held up his father's hand to remove it from
upon Ephraim's head [to place it] on Menashe's head. And Joseph said to his
father, "Not so, Father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand
on his head." But his father refused, and he said, "I know, my son, I know;
he too will become a people, and he too will be great. But his younger
brother will be greater than he, and his children['s fame] will fill the
nations." So he blessed them on that day, saying, "With you, Israel will
bless, saying, 'May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe," and he
placed Ephraim before Manasseh.(Breishis 48:17-19)
May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe…"May HASHEM bless you and keep you.
May HASHEM let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May HASHEM look kindly upon you and give you peace."
(Blessing for boys on Shabbos Night)
We have to wonder why this blessing is the one offered from parents to their
boys each Friday night. The girls are blessed that they should be like the
great matriarchs, Sara, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah. Why are not the names of
the patriarchs evoked for the male version of this blessing? Why are Ephraim
and Menashe the focal point of this time honored tradition, which is crowned
with the priestly blessing of peace?
Charles Plumb was a navy jet pilot. On his seventy-sixth combat mission, he
was shot down and parachuted into enemy territory. He was captured and spent
six years in prison. He survived and now lectures on the lessons he learned
from his experiences.
One day, a man in approached Plumb and his wife in a restaurant, and said,
"Are you Plumb the navy pilot?" "Yes, how did you know?" asked Plumb. "I
packed your parachute," the man replied. Plumb was amazed - and grateful:
"If the chute you packed hadn't worked I wouldn't be here today..."
Plumb refers to this in his lectures: his realization that the anonymous
sailors who packed the parachutes held the pilots' lives in their hands, and
yet the pilots never gave these sailors a second thought; never even said
hello, let alone said thanks.
Now Plumb asks his audiences, "Who packs your parachutes? Who helps you
through your life-physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? Think
about who helps you and recognize them and say “thanks."
How does this story apply to Ephraim and Menashe? They too were parachuted
into Egypt via Yosef their father. There he survived based on the wisdom
Yaakov, their grandfather had taught him. He, Yaakov, in essence, packed
their parachute too! He gave them the survival tools to “make it” in an
Egyptian exile, and they did!
When Yaakov blessed them, they were grateful! There was none of that
quibbling over the blessings that had plagued so many generations until
then. What more can parents hope for than their children live peacefully
with each other with appreciation for those who lived their lives only in
order to pack your parachute.