Ephraim on the right

The possuk says in this week’s sedrah:
וַיִּקַּח יוֹסֵף אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם אֶת אֶפְרַיִם בִּימִינוֹ מִשְּׂמֹאל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת מְנַשֶּׁה בִשְׂמֹאלוֹ מִימִין יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּגֵּשׁ אֵלָיו. וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת יְמִינוֹ וַיָּשֶׁת עַל רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם וְהוּא הַצָּעִיר וְאֶת שְׂמֹאלוֹ עַל רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה שִׂכֵּל אֶת יָדָיו כִּי מְנַשֶּׁה הַבְּכוֹר. ... וַיַּרְא יוֹסֵף כִּי יָשִׁית אָבִיו יַד יְמִינוֹ עַל רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינָיו וַיִּתְמֹךְ יַד אָבִיו לְהָסִיר אֹתָהּ מֵעַל רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם עַל רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה. וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אָבִיו לֹא כֵן אָבִי כִּי זֶה הַבְּכֹר שִׂים יְמִינְךָ עַל רֹאשׁוֹ. וַיְמָאֵן אָבִיו וַיֹּאמֶר יָדַעְתִּי בְנִי יָדַעְתִּי גַּם הוּא יִהְיֶה לְּעָם וְגַם הוּא יִגְדָּל וְאוּלָם אָחִיו הַקָּטֹן יִגְדַּל מִמֶּנּוּ וְזַרְעוֹ יִהְיֶה מְלֹא הַגּוֹיִם
“Yosef took both his sons, Ephraim to his right to the left of Yisroel and Menashe in his left to the right of Yisroel and he drew close to him. And Yisroel stretched out his right hand and he placed it on the head of Ephraim although he was the younger one and his left on the head of Menashe, he did intelligently with his hands, because Menashe was the bechor...And Yosef saw that his father had placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim and it was bad in his eyes and he supported the hand of his father to remove it from the head of Ephraim to the head of Menashe. And Yosef said to his father, ‘This is not correct, my father, because this one is the bechor, place your right hand on his head.’ And his father refused and he said, ‘I know, my son, I know, he will also become a people and he will also become great, however his younger brother will become greater than him and his descendants will be famous among the nations.”

Why did Yaakov have to cross his hands, why did he not just tell Menashe and Ephraim to change places?

Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner z”l explains as follows:

Rashi and the Medrash Rabbah explain that Ephraim was greater then Menashe in that Yehoshua was descended from Ephraim.

Yehoshua’s greatness was that:
  • He was the first to fight Amalek
  • He was manchil Eretz Yisroel to the Benei Yisroel
  • He taught the benei yisroel Torah
What is the connection between these three things?

In his fight with the malach, Yaakov’s thigh was dislocated. The medrash explains that the sar shel Esav was ‘paga betamchin deoraisoh’ – he attacked support of the Torah. The fight between Yaakov and the malach was a continuation of the fight between Yaakov and Esav in the womb over olam hazeh and olam habah. Whereas the sar shel Esav could not attack Yaakov directly, because he was a talmid chacham, he could attack the ability of Torah and mitzvos to be supported in olam hazeh.

Yehoshua, who was the descendant of Ephraim, started to reverse this damage. He gave the benei yisroel olam hazeh – Eretz Yisroel, in which they were able to gain olam habah by keeping the Torah. To do this, he overcame Amalek who is descended from Esav.

Nonetheless, we are still in galus edom.

Yaakov did not tell Ephraim to stand on the right, because Yaakov did not have complete victory over the malach in olam hazeh. Ephraim’s victory over Amalek is only partial till moshiach comes. When moshiach comes, Yaakov’s limp will be healed entirely as the medrash says:
ויזרח לו השמש וגו' א"ר ברכיה ולמי לא זרחה השמש אלא לו לרפואתו אבל לאחרים אורה ר"ה בשם ר' אחא אמר כך היתה השמש מרפא באבינו יעקב ומלהטת בעשו ובאלופיו אמר לו הקב"ה את סימן לבניך מה את השמש מרפא בך ומלהטת בעשו ובאלופיו כך בניך תהא השמש מרפא בהן ומלהטת בעובדי כוכבים מרפא בהן (מלאכי ג) וזרחה לכם יראי שמי שמש צדקה ומרפא בכנפיה ומלהטת בעובדי כוכבים (שם) הנה היום בא בוער כתנור וגו'

“’And the sun shone for him’ – Rebbi Berechya asked – The sun shone for everybody? Rather, the sun shone to heal Yaakov but for everyone else it just provided light. Rav Huna said in the name of Rav Acha, the sun healed Yaakov Avinu and burnt Esav and his chieftains. Hakodosh Boruch Hu said to Yaakov, ‘You are a sign for your children, just as the sun heals you and burns Esav and his chieftains, so too the sun will heal your children and will burn ovdei kokachavim. It will heal them as the passuk says (malachi 3) “וזרחה לכם יראי שמי שמש צדקה ומרפא בכנפיה”, and it will burn the ovdei kochavim as the passuk says “הנה היום בא בוער כתנור”.’

Ultimately Yaakov will win olam hazeh entirely by defeating Amalek.

The Ramban (shemos 17:9) says:
והנה‏ כל ‏אשר ‏עשו ‏משה ‏ויהושע ‏עמהם‏ בראשונה ‏יעשו ‏אליהו ‏ומשיח‏ בן ‏יוסף ‏עם‏ זרעםֹ
“Everything that Moshe and Yehoshua did to Amalek originally, Eliyohu and Moshiach ben Yosef will do to their descendants.”

The defeat of Amalek will be through the descendants of Ephraim.

That is why the possuk in Hoshea (11:3) says:
וְאָנֹכִי תִרְגַּלְתִּי לְאֶפְרַיִם קָחָם עַל זְרוֹעֹתָיו

 “I gave standing to Ephraim through that which he took them on his arms.”

Initially, Ephraim’s greatness was only apparent through Yaakov’s changing round his arms. However this is a portend that in the future Ephraim will be able to stand on the right so that klal yisroel’s legs will be able to fully support the mitzvos that we do with our hands.


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