My parents always bless my siblings and me on Friday night. Unlike families in the Torah, they don’t do it in any special order. They just start with the closest child.
In this week’s parshah, Vayechi, Yosef asks his father, Yaakov, to bless his children. Chizkuni, who lived in France in the 1300s, said that Yaakov crossed his hands instead of having the children switch places so he could honor both his favored grandchild and the firstborn. When Yaakov puts his hand on Ephraim’s head first, Yosef tells his father not to. Yaakov tells Yosef that they will both begin great nations, but he still blesses Ephraim before Manasseh. Why did Yosef really tell his father to bless Manasseh, the older one, before Ephraim? Blessing the younger son and not the older one is a tradition in the Torah that goes back to Cain and Abel, when God liked the offering of Abel’s, the younger brother, more than God liked Cain’s.
Abraham’s second son, Yitzhak, was the one he loved and blessed. In turn, Yitzchak liked Esav better than Yaakov, but Rivkah loved Yaakov better.
Yaakov “married” Leah. Yaakov loved the younger daughter, Rachel, more than the older one.
Yaakov is partial to his second youngest son, Yosef. Yosef has his own children and wants his father to bless them. His father is blessing the younger one first, and Yosef tells his father not to. Maybe he was making the same mistake of child favoritism by telling his father to bless one child more than the other instead of both equally.
Maybe Yosef learned from example, a bad example. Yosef saw his father blessing one child and not the others, and loving one child more than the others, and learned from that.
On the other hand, Yaakov was trying to bless Yosef’s children equally, because Menasseh was on his right and Ephraim was on his left, and then Yaakov put his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his right hand on Manasseh’s head.
Yaakov saw the mistake he made when blessing his own sons and was trying not to make that same mistake blessing Yosef’s sons, and Yosef didn’t realize that. Yaakov did something wrong, and he was trying to redeem himself. Yaakov is trying to set an example for his grandchildren, a good example.
Blanca Berger Sollod is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.