Ephraim and Menashe

As Yaaakov Avinu is ready to pass on to the next world, he bestows blessings on all of his children. His two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe, are elevated to the status of Shevatim (tribes) in the process. During this process he bestowed a blessing that has become the standard blessing by which we bless our sons to this very day - "So he blessed them that day, saying, "By you shall Israel bless, saying: May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe". All future generations of Jewish boys are blessed to be like Ephraim and Menashe. The commentaries ask why Yaakov instructed the Jewish people to bless our sons to be like Ephraim and Menashe more than anyone else. Yaakov had twelve superb children of his own who are surely worthy role models to live up to. The commentaries explain that Ephraim and Menashe did not just live up to their potential but surpassed their potential. Up to this point, only the sons of Yaakov merited to be considered among the 12 tribes. Ephraim and Menashe were not sons of Yaakov and were not destined to be tribes. However, due to their greatness, Yaakov elevated them to the status of Shevatim, a level that was beyond their potential. Accordingly, we bless our children to emulate Ephraim and Menashe and reach beyond their potential. This idea also educates a parent as to his aspirations for his own children. We should not suffice with bringing up our children to be "ordinary" Jews. Rather we should aim to facilitate that our children become "great." It is not enough that we merely "want" that our children become great but rather we should try to actively facilitate our children's path to greatness in how we raise them, by providing positive means for them to grow and being extremely careful to keep negative influences that can hinder our children from reaching their potential away from them. May we all merit to surpass our own potential and bring up children to exceed all our expectations.

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