HomeDecember 2013Merit vs. Entitlement

Merit vs. Entitlement

“Va’yishlach Yisroel et yemino va’yashet al rosh Efrayim . . . “ Yaakov places his right hand on Efrayim’s head even though he was the younger one, and his left hand on Menashe’s.  Yaakov maneuvered his hands because Menashe was the firstborn.  By blessing Efrayim, the younger of the two brothers with his right hand, Yaakov gives the younger son priority over his older brother.  Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch stressed that there is no ethical or spiritual superiority deriving from one’s birth order.  The only advantage a firstborn has is based on material inheritance.  Yaakov, through Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Divine inspiration), chooses to grant priority in the blessing on the basis of whose offspring will be greater, instead of on the basis of who is the firstborn.  By maneuvering his hands for the blessing, Yaakov rejects the pagan custom of favoring the firstborn merely because of birth order.  Instead he shows that Judaism places greater importance in the concept of what a person is and what he will become.  Among the many commentators to the passage, the Kli Yahar observes that God chooses the weak and downtrodden, as opposed to the cult of strength associated with the status of the firstborn.
The Torah points to other examples of where a younger brother achieved moral and spiritual superiority over his first born sibling.  God favored Hevel (Abel) over his older brother Kayin (Cain).  Yitzchak is favored over his older brother Yishmael.  In his youth, Yaakov is favored over his older brother Esav.  Yoseph is favored over firstborn Reuven.  Reuven was not given the double portion of inheritance usually reserved for the firstborn; it went instead to Yoseph.  This occurred when Yoseph’s sons, Efrayim and Menashe, were elevated to a status equal to the other tribes.
The actual blessing that Yaakov gave to Yoseph’s sons – “May God make you as Efrayim and Menashe” – became the most famous and widely known of all the blessings that Yaakov gave.  This blessing serves as a model to all Jewish parents who wish to bless their children.
As an addendum to “accepting one’s lot,” it might be ascertained that the redemption from our current exile is foreshadowed in the Yoseph experience.  If the renewed love of the brothers could be duplicated by their modern day descendants (i.e., “us”), our Redemption would come, as did theirs.  (A thought worth pondering.)

From the Torah to Your Table:

“Ribbet, Ribbet.”  Sound Familiar?: Rashi explains that there was only one frog, but when the Egyptians struck it, it split into a great deal of frogs.  When the Egyptians observed that striking the frogs caused them to multiply immeasurably, common sense would dictate that they stop.  But a person who acts in anger does not listen to the voice of reason.  Anger begets more anger and the land of Egypt was covered with frogs.  Comments the Birkaz Peretz, “In any dispute, if the aggravated party would remain silent, then the squabble would gradually subside.  Regrettably, the opposite is true.  Accusations and recriminations are voiced, provoking a torrent of counter-claims, acrimony and name calling.  Ultimately, the bickering escalates into a crescendo of uncontrollable rage, a perfect parallel to the plague of the frogs.”

Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Friday, December 6
Light candles at 4:25 p.m.
Saturday, December 7
Torah Portion: Vayigash
(Genesis 44:18-47:27)
Friday, December 13
Light candles at 4:26 p.m.
Saturday, December 14
Torah Portion: Vayehi
(Genesis 47:28-50:26)
Friday, December 20
Light candles at 4:28 p.m.
Saturday, December 21
Torah Portion: Shemot
(Exodus 1:1-6:1)
Friday, December 27
Light candles at 4:32 p.m.
Saturday, December 28
Torah Portion: Vaera
(Exodus 6:2-9:35)

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