ויחי

This week’s parsha concludes the book of Bereishit (Genesis) and the peaceful sojourn of Yaakov’s family in Egypt.  Before dying, Yaakov blesses his sons, but only after having a private audience with his favourite son Yosef, as well as his two sons Ephraim and Menashe.  While most people focus on the meaning of Yaakov switching his hands, and placing his right (more important) on his younger grandson, the Sforno emphasizes a different aspect of that scene.  After placing his hands on his grandchildren, the text relates: “And he [Yaakov] blessed Yosef, and he said: The God that my forefathers walked before, Avraham and Yitzchak, the God that shepherded me from my birth until this day; the angel that has redeemed me from all misfortune will bless these youths, and they will be called after my name, and the name of my forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak, and they will reproduce greatly amidst the land” (48:15-16, translation mine).  The question the text presents is: who is Yaakov blessing here?  While the verse opens by saying it is Yosef, the content of the blessing seems to suggest Ephraim and Menashe.  Sforno resolves this difficulty by saying that the first part of the verse, namely the words “And he blessed Yosef” are meant to convey that a blessing was said to Yosef, whose contents are not shared, and then Yaakov went on to bless his grandsons.  For the Sforno, this highlights the intimate connection between Yaakov and Yosef.  In contrast to his grandsons, whom Yaakov does not even recognize (48: 8), Yaakov does not need any physical connection to his favourite son to bless him, not sight (48:10), not a hand placed on his head, nor a hug or kiss.  Similarly, after the formal blessings/prophesies are given for each of the twelve tribes, the text says that Yaakov blessed each one of them according to their blessing (48:28), and Sforno interprets that to mean that Yaakov took each son aside privately and gave him a blessing, like he did with Yosef earlier (answering the apparent difficulty that the contents of some of the recorded ‘blessings’ were not very positive).

With those close to us

A silent nod can express

Our eternal love

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