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Serene and calm-Ephraim and Menashe..

One of the most beautiful customs in Jewish life is for parents to bless their children at the start of the Friday night Shabbat meal. Girls receive the blessing: “May G-d make you like the Matriarchs  Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah”. Boys, meanwhile, are blessed to be “like Ephraim and Menashe”.

 

Why do Jewish parents bless their children with the exact phraseology of Jacob, “May God establish you as Ephraim and Menashe” (Bereshit 48:20)? Why is it that Ephraim and Menashe are the prototype for this blessing? What happened to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?! Why were Ephraim and Menashe chosen instead of the Patriarchs, as the subjects of this important tradition?

 

Would it not be more appropriate to use the Avot (Patriarchs) themselves as figures for our children to emulate? The lives of the Avot were marked with immense pain and anguish, suffering and turbulence. The exceptions to this rule, at the time of the Avot, were Ephraim and Menashe. Whereas Abraham had his disappointments with Ishmael and Sara being taken into custody, Isaac had his problems with Esau, Jacob and the other shevatim (tribes) lived through the flight from Laban, the death of Rachel, the pursuit of Esau, the conflagration at Shechem, and the sale of Joseph, Ephraim and Menashe were raised with absolutely no strife. Peace and tranquility was associated with the home in which they were raised. It is with this thought that parents bless their children today. We beseech G-d to grant each child a peaceful serene and calm upbringing emulative of that of Ephraim and Menashe.

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