To Be a Great Man by Dani Yaros


In Parshat VaYechi, Yosef brings his two sons, Menashe, his firstborn, and Ephraim, his younger son, to be blessed by his dieing father, Yaakov Avinu (Bereishit 48:1).  A few Pesukim later (Bereishit 48:14), Yaakov , rather than putting his right hand on Menashe, the Bechor, and his left hand on Ephraim, the younger, crosses his hands and puts his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Menashe.  This was very strange, as it is customary to put one’s right hand on the Bechor and one’s left hand on the younger son.  Yosef immediately recognizes this and tries to switch Yaakov’s hands, but Yaakov is insistent and refuses to switch his hands.  Why did Yaakov cross his hands?

A famous answer is that Yaakov knew that Ephraim’s future descendents, which would include the illustrious Yehoshua, would outshine Menashe’s descendents.  Therefore, Yaakov wanted to give the greater Berachah to the son who would have the greater offspring.  But this answer appears problematic.  Why would Yaakov give the greater Berachah to the grandson with the greater offspring; he should have given it to the grandson with lesser offspring in the hope that perhaps they will also turn out to be Gedolim.  Chazal explain that a greater Tzaddik, who has great responsibility in this world, has a more challenging Yeitzer HaRa than does a lesser person.  The reason for this is that through these obstacles and defeating the Yeitzer HaRa, they will become truly great people.  Knowing this, Yaakov gave Ephraim the stronger Berachah, foreseeing the greatness of Yehoshua.  A similar event occurs in Safer BeMidbar when Moshe Rabbeinu sends the Meraglim to Eretz Yisrael; Moshe gives Yehoshua a special Berachah.  Perhaps the same logic could be used to explain why specifically Yehoshua got a Berachah while the other Meraglim such as Kalev did not.  Yehoshua was a future leader of Bnei Yisrael and therefore would have a stronger Yeitzer HaRa than the others would.  Consequently, Moshe gave Yehoshua a special Berachah to help him deal with his more potent Yeitzer HaRa.

Everyone has strong drives for things which are not necessarily appropriate.  However, we should not get discouraged if we feel that our desires are very difficult to suppress.  On the contrary, overcoming difficult tests is what makes someone into a truly great person.

-Adapted from a Devar Torah found in “Thinking Outside the Box”. 

What it Means to Be a Gadol by Rabbi Steven Finklestein

Yaakov: Embalmed or Not? by Doniel Sherman