Friday, December 17, 2021

Just do good

In a somewhat bizarre incident, Yosef brings his two sons Menashe and Ephraim to his ailing father’s bedside for a final parting and for the two young grandchildren to get a blessing from their sage grandfather. Yaakov stuns Yosef when he places his right hand on the second brother Ephraim and his left hand on the firstborn son Menashe. This is met with resistance from Yosef, who not so gently reminds his elderly father that Menashe is the firstborn and thus deserving to have the right hand placed on him. (This is somewhat ironic considering that Yosef who was not the firstborn was considered the preferred son and now he is taking offense that his firstborn son was not receiving his due honor). What was it about Yaakov’s insistence that Ephraim is the recipient of the preferred bracha? Not only that, but Yaakov designated the gold standard of blessings should be “ May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe” -- why was it so important that Ephraim precedes Menashe ? The Nesivos Shalom writes based on a famous verse in Tehillim/Psalms: סור מרע ועשה טוב /Desist from Evil and Perform Good. This is the formula that King David taught us toward the path of character development and improvement. First and foremost, it is important to desist from wrongdoing and only then to engage in mitzvah or good deeds. The only problem with that approach is that a person can always be busy with desisting wrongdoing and never get to perform one mitzvah or good deed -- for who can actually say that I have no baggage left in the closet and now I am free to pursue mitzvahs and good deeds? One of the best ways to desist from wrongdoing is to just do a mitzvah or good deed. This is illustrated with the story of Menashe and Ephraim. In Parshas Mikeitz, it states the reason why Yosef named his two sons Menashe and Ephraim. His first son was named Menashe for as he put it “God has made me forget the toil”, in essence that is the value of desist from wrongdoing. His second son was named Ephraim for as he put it “G-d made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”. In essence, this is the value of Asei Tov/Doing a Mitzvah or good deed. That was the deeper message of Yaakov in his designation of his two grandsons. Although in an ideal world, it is important to first get away from wrongdoing it is imperative that one just perform a mitzvah or a good deed as activation energy. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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