Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

Od Yoseif Chai

(Joseph is still alive!)

Part 6: Ephraim and Manshe -- Prophetic portents in the blessing of Jacob

 

 

 

Commentary on Parashat Vayehi
TORAH: Genesis 47;28 — 50:26
HAFTORAH: 1 Kings 2:1-12
December 29, 2001 — 14 Tevet 5762

 

© 2005 Maggid ben Yoseif

Introduction:

This is the sixth and final week of special commentary on the Torah portions that record the birth, mission and death of Joseph. These six weeks of commentary have been written and disseminated to determine whether the Torah may allude to or reveal outright a plan to Return the non-Jewish Assimilated House of Joseph to be reunited with the Jewish House of Judah. In fact, we submit that such a plan is mystically hidden in the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s birth, life and interaction with his brothers. As we see in this week’s portion, this applies specifically to the prophecy by which Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph — Ephraim and Manashe.

Such a return and reunion would naturally involve the biblical inheritances of the House of Joseph (the historical/biblical borders of Ephraim and Manashe) together with the biblical territory of Benjamin, who became part of the House of Joseph in portion
Mikeitz. Since these same territories define the Shomron or Samaria, sought by the Palestinians to comprise the northern 2/3rds of their proposed state, Hashem may have plans for this region other than a Palestinian state.

In this week’s portion, we especially note the phrase
melo hagoyim,” (fullness of the Gentiles). Among all of the 12 tribes of Israel, we find that Ephraim alone is singled out to assimilate or to become this special class of non-Jew.  Hashem promised in Jeremiah 31:15ff that He would never forget and would return Ephraim to its biblical territories. We will also see how these two Hebrew words completely unravel the traditional interpretation of the “New” Testament and much of the doctrine of Christianity with a sod or mystery that we submit, may even reconcile Christianity and Judaism … once their mutual exclusivity, as defined in this Torah portion, is understood.

Maggid ben Yosef

 

Portion of the Kohen:  Genesis 47:28 — 48:9
Rashi alludes to the unique feature of the Kohen’s portion in that there is absolutely no space between the start of these verses and the paragraph ending the preceding parashah. As Rashi explained, Jacob wanted to tell his children the "Time of the End” or when the final exile would end, but was prevented from doing so because his prophetic vision was similarly “closed.” Mystically, however, even the “closed” sections of the Torah will be revealed in the very Last Days. And now may be those times, especially as they refer to the body of revelation in the Torah about Ephraim. Since Rashi’s view of the “End” refers to the “end” of the current exile, which is called the “Exile of Esau-Edom,” it is logical that Ephraim plays a major role because of the writings of the sages mentioned in earlier portions, referring to only the sons of Joseph having the spiritual capacity to vanquish the children of Esau.

If we understand the “illness” of Jacob in the End of Days in the context of the oppression of Esau-Edom (for instance, the ultra-nationalistic fervor for a Palestinian State) we can understand why, at the news of his father’s illness, Joseph took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim with him. Surely Joseph did not go anticipating a blessing with his father on his deathbed!
It is very important to note that the blessing which ensues none-the-less, follows after Jacob repeats the initial promise Hashem made to Abraham and Isaac … to be fruitful, become a
congregation of goyim and to have a seed or offspring which would eternally possess the land of Israel. The phrase used for an “eternal” possession is achuzat ’olam. The same word achuzat is used to refer to the tomb of the Patriarchs, when Abraham purchases an achuzat kever (burial site) for Sarah. Achuzat comes from the Hebrew verb, achaz, which means “to hold or grasp.” So the literal sense of the word is that not just the tomb of the Patriarchs or any other burial site, but the entirety of the land of Israel should be a “hold” or “grasp” allowing the land to cling to the children of Israel and the children of Israel to cling to the land.

Verse 5, where the younger Ephraim is mentioned ahead of the older, Manashe, is a sign of things to come and initial evidence of Hashem’s choice of Ephraim. Since the context is the initial promise Hashem made to Abraham, we have evidence that the “choice” of Ephraim is simply to bring about the fulfillment of that promise and has little if anything to do with Ephraim challenging the leadership and authority of Judah. It seems that Ephraim was chosen merely to populate, as the name Ephraim (doubly-fruitful) implies. This is the role of the birthright from Abraham through Jacob.


Portion of the Levite:  Genesis 48:9 — 48:16
We find further evidence that the unique blessing of the children of Joseph applies toward the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob … and perhaps empowers the children of Joseph to some day bring this about … since only in Genesis 48:16 out of the entire Torah is there record of a blessing in the name of all three Patriarchs:

May the angel who redeems me from all evil bless the lads and may my name be declared upon them, and the names of my forefathers, Abraham and Isaac …

Rashi goes so far as to couple the names of the sons of Joseph with those of the Patriarchs! The latter part of this blessing sets its context as the idea of multiplying. Literally, v’yidgu larov b’kerev ha’aretz, is “may they be fish for a Rov (majority) in the midst of the land.” The word v’yidgu, is one of the most rare instances in the Torah when a noun (dag or fish) becomes a verb. Certainly this is an idiom for multiplicity or abundant proliferation as the word is usually translated. Since Joseph’s name, as we also have explained earlier means “to multiply so as to remove the disgrace of being barren,” we see that this is consistent with the prophetic intent of him having that name, although it is fulfilled through his sons. This abundance, which ultimately results in the fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, (that his seed will comprise a Global Rov), occurs in exile. There, it is a mixed blessing, since Manashe was given his name in the context of Joseph forgetting even his father’s house!

The popular analogy to the mission of Y’shua (Jesus, Yehoshua or Yeska) initiating the movement of “fishers” of men and literally multiplying fish in the midst of the land, can be interpreted as a remez referring to Genesis 48 and validating his mission as a shaliah to the lost (Assimilated) sheep of the House of Israel or the Northern Kingdom). In his own words, he told his followers to stay out of the cities of Judah (the well don’t need a physician, the un-lost do not need to be found) but rather to search out and save that which is “lost.” It is after his multiplication of five loaves of bread (symbolizing the Torah) and two fish (Ephraim and Manasseh), that the “reNewed” Testament states that the Jews wondered about his identity as the “son of Joseph.” (The ingathering of the exiles of the House of Israel, is a role traditionally associated with an anointed son of Joseph and not moshiah ben David.

Third Portion:  Genesis 48:17 — 48:22
When Joseph reminds his father, Jacob, that Manashe is the elder of his sons and deserves the right-hand blessing of the bechor (the firstborn), Jacob states that Manashe will be great but Ephraim will be greater. Moses later makes a similar declaration: Manashe will become alfei (thousands) but Ephraim will become the rivvot (the plural for rov, indicating multiple majorities or as the text often translates, "myriads.")  In both instances, the context again is numbers, not material greatness or spiritual greatness for that matter.

Jacob says specifically of Ephraim, v’zaro yihyeh melo hagoyim, (and his seed will become the fullness of the Gentiles.) Some Torah translations insert the word “fame” after seed, but that word does not occur in the text. To understand more about the context of the melo hagoyim, which also has hardly any mention in the Talmud, we can turn to a First Century writing by a Jewish rabbi who called himself a “Pharisees of Pharisees.” Shaul (known as Paul in the “reNEWed” Testament, related a parable of two olive trees, one natural with two main branches (referring biblically and historically to the House of Israel and the House of Judah) and one wild, referring to the goyim or other nations. In fact, the Talmud refers to such a wild olive tree as “appearing” from a distance to look like an olive tree, but up close in the place of olives one found thorns.

Because of the unbelief (biblically, the counting of the Torah as a strange thing) of the Northern Kingdom, their branch was severed from the natural olive tree. This occurred at the time of the exile and scattering of the Northern Kingdom. But in the place of the branch severed, Paul wrote of a sod (mystery) that Hashem was grafting in Gentiles who could become part of the natural olive tree so long as they did not “boast against the (other) branches” intact or cut-off. Their only boast could be in what and Who sustained the olive tree, its root and fatness (or Hashem and the Torah). Then Paul wrote that in the End Times, Hashem would graft back into the natural olive tree, the very branches that had been lopped off! And these branches would take to this graft much more naturally. All of this leads up to his mystical pronouncement:

"For I wish not for you to be ignorant brothers of this sod (mystery), lest ye be in yourselves wise, hardness has happened to part of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in and so all Israel will be returned as it has been written: The deliverer will come out of Zion and he will turn away impiety from Jacob. And this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27)

Interpreted theologically rather than biblically and historically, Christian leaders have distorted the one truth Paul urged them to understand as a mystery. The fact that it is a mystery should immediately tell us it relates to something in the Torah and the sod level of interpreting the Torah. Since the melo hagoyim of Genesis 48:19 refers exclusively to Ephraim, it should be obvious that Paul is referring to the House of Joseph-Ephraim being this branch of Israel that was cut off, but which will be returned to the root and fatness. And when Ephraim begins this revival en masse it signals that the sothesetai (return) of all of Israel is near at hand.

So aside from an initial spiritual outpouring (to sovereignly reconcile the spirit of enmity in men of Judah so they would be willing to seek out and save their vexatious brothers in exile — the men of Ephraim), Christianity — if it should even be called that — has had very little relevance to the path of normative Orthodox Judaism. Yet the basic message of the Gospel “to restore the House of Israel” has very great relevance to the “House of Judah.” For Genesis 48:20 states, “By you (Ephraim & Manashe or the House of Joseph) shall Israel — meaning all of Israel — bless. Without the House of Joseph, this formula to bless Jewish children at the start of each Shabbat,  lacks something most pivotal. 

Jacob repeats in verse 21 that when he is about to die, Hashem will bring Ephraim and Manasseh back to the land of their fathers and specifically mentions
Sh’chem, which Jacob took by force. Prophetically, this represents a portent that could be the means Hashem will meet force with force … at Sh’chem since without the Tomb of Joseph in its possession, Israel is bereft a very great spiritual weapon. Also the mystic sages say that since the return mentioned in verse 21 applies only to Ephraim and Manasseh, that it refers to a later return from a later exile, which excludes the House of Judah. Judah will already have made its return at the time this prophetic portent is fulfilled.

Fourth Portion:  Genesis 49:1-18
Without denigrating any of the tribes but focusing on Jacob’s predictions for the End of Days as they pertain to the Joes and the Jews and possibly their interaction, we have these comments:

The assemblage of nations referred to in verse 10 is in the midst of Jacob’s prophecy of JUDAH, but something happens at Shiloh which removes the scepter from Judah and scholars from among Judah’s descendants. At Shiloh, King David reconciled with the House of Joseph. But it was at Shiloh after the death of Solomon, where King Rehoboam slighted the men of Joseph and the split of the kingdom resulted with Jereboam being named the first of a long line of non-Jewish kings. And it was this Northern Kingdom, which in exile, became an “assemblage of nations.

The mystic sages remark that the words Jacob spoke to Judah recorded in verses 8-12, do not contain any word with the Hebrew letter
zayin. This is in keeping with Hashem’s promise in Hosea 1:7, where He announces He has removed His mercy from the Northern Kingdom (the House of Israel) but will not do so to the House of Judah. But nor will he judge them (take up their cause) with battle or bow or sword or horsemen. The zayin is the missing battle-axe. Indeed in these End Times, Judah may come to realize that the battle axe is to be wielded by the children of Joseph who are destined to secure Israel’s victory over its enemies.

Dan will avenge his people and in connection with this somehow, the tribes of Israel will be united as one. This prophecy with Dan ends with a prayer recited as part of the Bedtime
Sh’ma “l’shuateycha k’viti Hashem,” (For your salvation do I long Hashem). Contextually the “salvation” to which Jacob refers relates to Israel being united again.

Fifth Portion:  Genesis 49:19-26
Joseph is called a ben Porat, which is variously interpreted, “charming son” or “fruitful vine.” Mystically, this refers not to Joseph, but to his offspring, who as the prophecy continues are slandered and like their father, Joseph, provoked jealousy in people without even trn’zirying. While he was suited for leadership, he could not get the popular support of his brothers. His only defense against attacks is Hashem, the Mighty Power of Jacob. With Hashem, despite what he has going against him, Hashem will bless Beit Yoseif with all manner of blessings: Heaven from above or spiritual revelation; blessings of the deep crouching below (many believe this refers to oil fields that will be discovered in the Jezreel valley, the pinnacle being Megiddo); blessings of the bosom and womb (referring to fruitfulness again). The givot olamusually translated everlasting hills, world’s hills, or ancient hills,” are the name of a cluster of hills in the Jewish settlement known as Itamar just to the east of Nablus/Sh’chem. (Geological surveys have shown that the oldest hills are the best places to explore for oil).

These blessings are located on the kadkod (usually translated “crown” but it is technically the place that covers the soft spot on the head where the head t’fillin (especially the Rebbeinu Tam head t’fillin) are worn during the daylight hours by tzadikim. It may also be significant that kadkod has the same gematria as ben Yoseif (208). These blessings will be found upon Joseph’s head and upon the head of the  (exile or one separate) from his brothers. It is certainly curious that the unannexed territories form the outline of such a n’zir. He might be called such because these territories are not part of the present State of Israel and are therefore technically still in exile and separate. If so, it is here in these unannexed territories, and perhaps specifically in the settlement of Itamar or around Megiddo, where Hashem has decreed a very special blessing.

Sixth Portion:  Genesis 49:27 — 50:20
Jacob realized that he must be buried in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and himself and his descendants. Indeed that promise might even be contingent upon his burial there since his grave was an achuzat kever (burial hold as we have already explained). Similarly, pilgrimages to tombs have a special holding power on the pilgrims. When the pilgrimage is to the resting place of the righteous (the tzadikim), who have one foot in this world and one foot in the world to come, according to the mystic sages, a true tikkun is set in motion.

After the burial of Jacob, Joseph’s brothers still have a sense of guilt which results in some degree of paranoia that Joseph will exact retribution against them. They refer to their selling of Joseph into slavery in Egypt with the word pesha, which makes it a heinous act in their eyes, for which they feel they cannot cleanse their hands. They go so far as to fling themselves to the ground before Joseph and proclaim they are ready to be his slaves. Joseph replies with the same phrase Jacob stated to Rachel when she came to him demanding that he give her children or she would die: “Am I instead of God?

Jacob may have meant to inform Rachel that he could not oppose Hashem’s will, but Joseph clearly is relating to his brothers that they should not fear him or desire to be slaves to him, but they should fear only Hashem and be slaves only to Hashem. The exile of Joseph is again clarified as something that his brothers imposed on him intending him harm, nevertheless Hashem intended it for good … so that a vast people be kept alive. It bears repeating that the Return of the House of Joseph to Hashem, to Torah and ultimately to Eretz Yisrael will have a similar effect in keeping Israel alive in the face of Palestinian aggression.


Seventh Portion:  Genesis 50:21--26
Joseph leaves his brothers before his death with the buzz words by which they will know the time of their redemption from Egyptian exile: Elokim pakod yifkod etchem. (God will surely remember you). The idea of remembrance applies to all future redemptions from exile. Moses was accepted only after repeating the buzz words, which the sages wrote, were known only by the sages of that day and kept relatively secret.

The redemption of the House of Joseph from its current exile may have begun some 2000 years ago with the proclamation by the mother of Y’shua while he was still in her womb, that Hashem has (surely) remembered His people Israel and shown them His mercy. That one statement in the reNewed Testament, proposes the remedy of the three judgments decreed by Hashem against the Northern Kingdom beginning with the prophet Hosea, that Yisrael would no longer be called
Yisrael but Yizra’el (God will scatter or sow), would be Lo-ruhamah (without mercy) and would be Lo-Ami (Not My People).  Please note that these dealings with the Assimilation have no relevance at all to the House of Judah who was never removed from its Covenant.  God's dealings with Jews and Joes appear to be independent moves until the reunion will occur.

Joseph adjured his brothers that at the time of the remembrance, that they should bring his bones to Eretz Yisrael. The book of Exodus records several miracles associated with the bones of Joseph which were housed in an aron (ark) and which traveled with the children of Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings until they were finally buried at Sh’chem.

Haftorah Vayehi: 1 Kings 2:1-12
As King David is about to die he instructs Solomon on how to conduct his life. The sages wrote that this instruction will allow one to survive exile. David begins with the command to shomer (safeguard) the charge of Hashem. We are told to “safeguard” the Shabbat and to “remember” the Shabbat in order to do it. Safeguard in the context of the Shabbat pertains to the Halachah or the fences we place around Shabbat to protect it from infraction. Only then can we fulfill the rest of David’s instructions to “walk in Hashem’s ways, observe His decrees, commandments, ordinances, and testimonies as written in the Torah of Moses.

It is important to note that David emphasized the observance of the
Halachah above all else.

A question arises when David instructs Solomon to take vengeance against
Shim’i ben Gera, the Benjaminite from Bachurim who cursed David on the day he went to Machanaim. David promised him he would not slay him by the sword but at the same time charges Solomon not to hold him guiltless.

On the one hand
Shim’i has set in motion a m'dah which should repay him in like manner. On the other hand, Shim’i acted in this manner because of the enmity and vexation between the two monarchs before they became split into two kingdoms. Shim’i was a member of the household of King Saul and on the day David fled from Absalom hurled rocks at him and cursed him. David did not protest at the time, but does on his death bed.

Some might find a resurfacing of the enmity and vexation between the House of Joseph (including
Shim’i a Benjaminite) and the House of Judah because of this, especially since Shim’i contrary to David’s decree, was slain by the sword.

But I Kings 2:44, where Shim’i is described as someone with a wicked heart, and Solomon’s words that Hashem return his wickedness upon his own head appears to acquit David and Solomon of any malice in dealing with Shim’i, who was allowed sanctuary as long as he did not leave the walls of Jerusalem.
 

Shabbat Shalom and Hashem's love & blessings,
Maggid ben Yosef

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