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A Blessing For The End of Days

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

We are in a period of human history that the Torah refers to as the “End of Days.” Our writings teach that this period before the Messiah comes will be a time of great suffering, which is unsurprising given everything going on now.[1]

Before Jacob passed away, he said to his sons, “Gather round and I will tell you what will happen to you at the End of Days.” But as his sons came closer, Jacob lost his Ruach Hakodesh, (literally “Divine Spirit”) and was unable to reveal this information to his sons.[2]

The Rebbe of Radomsk explains that “when Jacob prophetically foresaw the terrible tribulation that would be visited upon his descendants in pre-messianic times, he became terribly saddened, and when a man falls into a state of sadness, his Ruach Hakodesh automatically departs from him.”[3]

We are living in those times. Constant terror attacks. Growing anti-Semitism around the world. A lack of national security. The list goes on.

What can we do? In the same Torah portion that spells disaster, G-d gives us the remedy. Indeed, there is an idea that before G-d sends a problem, He has already laid the groundwork for the solution.

On his deathbed, Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Menasheh, and tells them that the Jewish people will always bless their sons, saying, “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menasheh.”[4] To this day, at Shabbat tables around the world, parents put their hands on their sons’ heads and say, “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menasheh.” Girls are blessed to be like our Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Why are the boys not blessed to be like our Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? What is so special about Ephraim and Menasheh?

Ephraim and Menasheh grew up in the wealthiest country of their time, Egypt. Their father was second in command to Pharaoh. They were separated from the Jewish community and their extended family in Canaan. Yet despite the power, prestige, wealth, and alien culture they grew up in, they maintained their Jewish identity. The secret to how they did this is in the meaning of their names.

According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Ephraim and Menasheh represent the two different reactions that a Jew should have in exile.

Menasheh means “G-d has caused me to forget all my hardships and all that was in my father’s house.” In other words, Menasheh represents his father Joseph’s pain at being put in a place that made him forget his father’s house. Menasheh was the firstborn son because a Jew needs to first feel out of place in exile.[5]

On the other hand, Ephraim’s name means “G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my subjugation,” which represents Joseph’s success in Egypt.  Even though Joseph suffered by being separated from his family, he realized that it was Divine Providence that he live in Egypt because he had a mission to carry out there. Therefore, Ephraim was blessed first by Jacob, even though he was not the firstborn son, because the primary purpose of our being in exile is to succeed in being a Jew there.[6]

It is not random that we live where we do. We must remember our identity as Jews.  (What other reason is there for the growing anti-Semitism, such as the ridiculous recent anti-Israel UN resolution, other than to remind us that we are Jews?) We must work to maintain our Jewish identity in a culture that is not conducive to Jewish values in many ways. This is the challenge of our generation.

[2] Genesis 49:1

[3] Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis zt”l, Torah for the Table, p. 90

[4] Genesis 48:20

[5] The Lubavitcher Rebbe, based on Likutei Sichos, vol. 15, pp. 432-4.

[6] Id.

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