In Parshat Vayechi, Yaakov utters a very famous Pasuk when blessing his grandsons Efraim and Menasheh (48:16): “HaMal’ach HaGo’eil Oti MiKol Ra Yevareich Et HaNe’arim Vikarei Vahem Shemi, VeSheim Avotai Avraham VeYitzchak, Veyidgu LaRov Bekerev HaAretz,” “The angel who saves me from all evil should bless the youths and call them my name, and the names of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, and they should increase into a multitude in the midst of the land.” Rashi on this Pasuk comments that the “Ne’arim” are Menasheh and Efraim. But this seems obvious; why does Rashi need to tell us this? What else would “Ne’arim” mean?
Several commentators deal with this question. The Sefer Zikaron simply states that Rashi’s statement presents us with a difficulty and leaves our question unanswered. The Mizrachi suggests that Rashi needs to tell us this because the Ne’arim could be any of Yosef’s children, some perhaps too young to visit Yaakov. The Gur Aryeh takes a different viewpoint: the previous Pasuk states, “Vayevareich Et Yosef,” ”And [Yaakov] blessed Yosef” – not Menashe and Efraim. Without Rashi’s comment, we might have thought that “Ne’arim” refers to Yosef.
Rashi may also be coming to present an alternative to the interpretation of Midrash Rabbah, which says that “Ne’arim” refers to Yehoshua and Gideon. We see from Bemidbar 13:8 and Shoftim 6:15 that Yehoshua is a descendant of Efraim and that Gideon is from Sheivet Menasheh, so Yaakov could have had these two great leaders in mind, one descendant each for Efraim and Menasheh. When Yaakov states, “HaMalach HaGo’eil Oti MiKol Ra,” “The angel who saves me from all evil,” he may be referring to Yehoshua 8:13-14 and Shoftim 6:12, where Yehoshua and Gideon, respectively, are confronted by angels of Hashem who saves them. According to the Midrash Rabbah, then, Yaakov’s request is that the same angel who protected him “Yevareich Et HaNe’arim,” “will bless (i.e. help and save) the youths (i.e. the descendants of Menasheh and Efraim).”