Off the Pulpit: The Grandparent’s Blessing


A grandfather solves the most troubling problem of the first book of the Torah.

From the beginning, there have been clashes between brothers: Cain and Able, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. Sometimes the clashes are sparked by parents, at other times the siblings themselves build resentments.

Now Joseph is in Egypt with his brothers. On his deathbed, Jacob, Joseph’s father, calls Joseph and his sons Menasseh and Ephraim. Jacob tells Joseph he intends to adopt them as his own, but of course, they are really his grandchildren. It is the first interaction of a grandparent and a grandchild we read about in the Torah. And what does the grandfather do? He blesses them.

He gives the younger the greater blessing, an act which has sparked hatred before. Yet this time it causes no discord. The elder Menasseh accepts the lesser blessing. Perhaps the dynamic is different when a grandparent blesses, or perhaps after a lifetime of strife Jacob knew to bless both children together. To this very day parents on Friday night offer the blessing of Ephraim and Menasseh. Many do not realize it is the grandparent’s blessing. Grandparents have a special role, to be like Jacob – to be a blessing.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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