In this week’s Parsha, Yaakov tells Yosef, “VeAtah Shenei Vanecha HaNoladim Lecha BeEretz Mitzrayim…Li Heim; Efrayim UMnasheh KiR’uvein VeShimon Yihyu Li,” “And now, your two sons who were born to you in Egypt…are mine; Ephraim and Menasheh will be like Reuven and Shimon to me” (48:5). With this statement, Yaakov indicates that just as Reuven and Shimon both constitute Shevatim (tribes) and receive separate portions of Eretz Yisrael, so too Ephraim and Menasheh will constitute separate Shevatim and receive portions of Eretz Yisrael.
The Meshech Chochmah, noting that the Torah never wastes words, wonders why Yaakov prefaces his words with “and now.” Why could he not just start off the Pasuk with “your two sons?” The Meshech Chochmah answers by citing a Tosafot in Bava Batra (122a s.v. VeIdach LeMan), which claims that when Yaakov says “now” in the Pasuk, he is referring to the world as is in our times. Only in our days, Yaakov implies, do Ephraim and Menasheh have their own portions of land. When it is no longer as it is “now” in our days, however – when Mashiach comes (Im Yirtzeh Hashem) – Ephraim and Menasheh will no longer have two separate portions of land; rather, they will share one combined portion.
We can extract a very important lesson from this explanation. Although both Ephraim and Menasheh were great Tzaddikim, and their children would undoubtedly follow in their footsteps, this alone was not enough. Mashiach and the era he will bring in will come only when Ephraim and Menasheh are sufficiently united and experience Achdut towards each other that they feel comfortable relinquishing their independence for total unity (see Sefer Shofetim where Ephraim and Menashe are often in conflict). We infer that without Achdut within Klal Yisrael, Mashiach will not come no matter how great the people of a particular generation are. We must always feel united with the Jews all around us. Whether those Jews are Chasidim wearing streimels or Reform Jews not wearing Kippot at all, the most important thing is that we remain united as a single unit – Klal Yisrael. May it be Hashem’s will that through this unity of Klal Yisrael, He will bring the Mashiach BiMheirah BeYameinu, Amein.
--Adapted from a Dvar Torah in Torah Loda’as