Parshas Vayechi finds Yaakov Avinu at the end of his life. He begins to set his affairs in order, first by instructing Yosef how and where to bury him, then blessing his sons, and finally giving his sons final words of chizuk before he passes away. When Yosef hears his father has fallen ill, he immediately rushes to his side and brings his two sons, Menashe and Efraim, along with him. He hoped he would be able to secure a bracha for his children from his father before he passed away, and he wasn’t disappointed. However, a careful read of the pesukim seems to indicate that it wasn’t Menashe and Efraim who received this bracha.
We all know the story of what Yaakov did before he blessed Yosef’s sons, he crossed over his hands, placing the right hand on the head of Efraim, the younger son, and his left on the head of Menashe, the elder son. The bracha itself is also well-known, the pasuk of Hamalach Hagoel, which every Jewish child knows, said every night before going to sleep. However, the pasuk in between these two actions is where we will place our focus. After placing his (crossed over) hands on Menashe and Efraim, the pasuk says, “וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֶת־יוֹסֵ֖ף וַיֹּאמַ֑ר” “And he (Yaakov) blessed Yosef, and said” (Bereishis 48:15). The pasuk then continues with the bracha of Hamalach, “הַמַּלְאָךְ֩ הַגֹּאֵ֨ל אֹתִ֜י מִכָּל־רָ֗ע יְבָרֵךְ֘ אֶת־הַנְּעָרִים֒” “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths” (16).
A careful reading of Pasuk 15 shows that Yaakov was clearly blessing Yosef; however, no blessing appears in the pesukim directed at him! Pasuk 15 acts as an intro to Pasuk 16 which is clearly directed at Yosef’s sons (“יְבָרֵךְ֘ אֶת־הַנְּעָרִים֒”), so what happened to Yaakov’s bracha to Yosef?
The Ramban answers simply that blessing Yosef’s children was Yaakov’s way of blessing Yosef directly. These were Yosef’s only children, any and all blessing to Yosef would be through these two boys. For both Yaakov and Yosef, there was no greater blessing than having these great concepts be directed at Menashe and Efraim.
The Ohr HaChaim gives an additional explanation. He explains that the pasuk must be accentuated in a certain manner to be fully understood. “וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת־יוֹסֵף; וַיֹּאמַר” “He blessed Yosef; and he said”; Yaakov first gave Yosef a blessing, which the Torah doesn’t mention explicitly, and then turns his attention to Yosef’s sons. (The Seforno explains the pasuk like this as well.) He gives two possible explanations for what this bracha was. The first idea is that this was a blessing that Yosef should be continuously blessed. There’s no specific idea attached to it, and therefore, the pasuk only says that he blessed Yosef.
The second idea goes a little deeper. Rashi at the beginning of Parshas Lech Lecha (12:2) explains that originally, only Hashem was able to bless human beings. Then, He gave this power over to Avraham who gave it over to Yitzchak who passed it on to Yaakov. Our pasuk is saying that Yaakov gave over this power to Yosef. When Yaakov ‘blessed’ Yosef, he was literally giving him bracha, he was giving him the power of giving others bracha. There’s no need for specifics because there’s nothing specific about it!
Chazak Chazak V’Nischazek!
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