The first Perek in Parshat Miketz discusses Yosef’s rise to power in Egypt. This discussion includes descriptions of the naming of Yosef’s two sons, Menashe and Ephraim. The Torah says, “Vayikra Yosef Et Shem HaBechor ‘Menashe’ Ki Nashani Elokim Et Kol Amali Viet Kol Beit Avi,” “Yosef called the older one ‘Menashe’ because ‘Hashem helped me forget all of my troubles and all of my father’s house’” (41:51). This Pasuk baffles many Meforshim, because it does not make sense that Yosef, who is also known as “Yosef HaTzaddik,” “Yosef the Righteous Person,” would be so disrespectful as to thank Hashem for allowing him to forget his father. As a result, many Meforshim offer alternate explanations for Yosef’s actions. For example, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch says that this Pasuk should be interpreted to mean that Yosef is thanking Hashem for allowing his troubles in his father’s house and his troubles being sold into slavery to enable him to become instrumental in Hashem’s fulfillment of the Brit Bein Habetarim. Similarly, Rav Shimon Schwab says that Yosef is thanking Hashem for allowing him to abandon his former methods of thinking, under which he didn’t realize that his brothers had reasons for their actions.
However, in my humble opinion, it seems that the most logical interpretation is that of Peshuto Shel Mikra. I think that Yosef was happy to have forgotten Yaakov’s house and his trouble there because Yosef thinks that he has “made it big” in Egypt. There is evidence of this in other places as well.
Once Yosef has revealed himself to his brothers in Parshat Vayigash, he invites them down to live in Egypt, where he says that they will live on the best part of the land and they will be provided for by the king himself. This illustrates Yosef’s feeling that Egypt is a great land where he is a bigshot.
Yaakov however, sees the light from the beginning. When he is going down to Egypt, he needs Hashem to comfort him in a dream because he is afraid that his family will assimilate into Egyptian society causing him to be buried in an Egyptian holy place rather than the Maarat Hamachpelah (46: 1-4). Rav Elie Munk, a French commentator on the Torah, says that at the beginning of Parshat Vayechi, when Yaakov asks Yosef to bury him in Israel, he is trying to teach Yosef that Egypt is not the true home of the Jews but rather it is Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov does this again when he is blessing Yosef’s sons. At this point all we know about the sons is their names. Menashe was given his name because Hashem allowed Yosef to forget Israel, and Ephraim is given his because Hashem gave Yosef children in what he calls “Eretz Onyi,” “the land of my suffering.” Yaakov switches his hands so that his right hand, which would normally go on the elder, is on the younger son, Ephraim’s head because he wants to tell Yosef that it is best to think of Egypt as the land of suffering. At this point, Yosef sees the light too. This becomes apparent in 50:4 when Yosef says “El Beit Paroh,” “To Pharaoh’s house,” as though he is setting himself apart from it. Yosef understands that Israel is his real home, and finally makes it his last request to be buried there.