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Bereishit 48:20:

וַיְבָרֲכֵם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמוֹר בְּךָ יְבָרֵךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת אֶפְרַיִם לִפְנֵי מְנַשֶּׁה

So he blessed them on that day, saying, "With you, Israel will bless, saying, 'May God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh,' " and he placed Ephraim before Manasseh.

(translation Judaica Press, copied from Chabad.org)

Yaakov blessed his grandchildren, Efraim and Menasheh, that parents should wish for their kids to be like them. However, he doesn't specify in what way we should bless our children to be "like Efraim and Menasheh."

There isn't much discussion of the lives of אפרים and מנשה in Chumash, at least not explicitly. The only thing that comes to mind, at least for me, is what Rashi says (Bereishit 48:1):

ויש אומרים אפרים היה רגיל לפני יעקב בתלמוד

Some say that [the person who notified Yosef about his father's illness was] Efraim, because he was often found in front of Yaakov, in order to learn [Torah] from him.

(translation mine)

Spending time learning Torah with your grandfather is a great trait, but I'm not sure if that's the intent of Yaakov's bracha, quoted above; besides for the fact that this is only attributed to Efraim, and not to Menashe (IIRC some would explain that that was the case because Menashe, as the bechor, had to help his father with matters of state) -- this, then, would hardly be a blessing of being similar to "Efraim and Menashe."

So what, specifically, is the blessing of being "like Efraim and Menashe"?

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    Is that first one a duplicate? – Fred Jan 5 '15 at 2:14
  • I don't think so, @Fred. I saw it before I posted. – Shokhet Jan 5 '15 at 2:15
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    Do you think there is a significant distinction between why "Hashem made it so that we get blessed like them" and what Ya'akov's intention was? If so, perhaps you can spell out why you think so in your question. – Fred Jan 5 '15 at 2:21
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    But, practically speaking, the answer to your question is the be all and end all to answering the other question - at least with respect to the existing answers on the other question. – Fred Jan 5 '15 at 2:57
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Ephraim was the younger son and yet he exceeded Menashe, his older brother. The Bnei Yisoschar says that there were two possible negative reactions to this - Menashe could have been jealous of Ephraim having surpassed him, and Ephraim could have become haughty and lorded it over Menashe. Their greatness was that Menashe acknowledged the achievements of Ephraim, and Ephraim did not pride himself over that he had surpassed his brother. Yaakov was thus able to put Ephraim before Menashe for the blessing, and this itself is the blessing - that Ephraim is put before Menashe, and there are no qualms about it. Our children should similarly have shalom and mutual respect.

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I heard nice explanation from my rabbi Boruch Myers.

As they grew up observant in non-jewish society, so we bless our children that outside influences shouldn't influence them.

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Here are a couple more explanations:

The Or HaChayim (ad loc.) writes that Ya'akov gave Ephraim and Menasheh the maximum possible blessing. Therefore, people would give blessings accordingly and reference that they also want to give the greatest possible blessing:

פירוש בירך אותם כל כך ברכות עד גדר שאין ברכה למעלה ממנה עד שהכל אומרים בך ראוי לברך ישראל

The Maharal (Gur Aryeh ad. loc.) writes that Ephraim and Menasheh would become so renowned that people would invoke their names when blessing their own children:

שכל כך יהיו אפרים ומנשה חשובים עד שמי שבא לברך את בנו יברך אותו כך

  • I don't see that that Maharal answers this question, unless he means that we bless our children that they be so renowned that their names get invoked for blessings. – msh210 Jan 5 '15 at 3:58
  • @msh210 Perhaps you are right. That's an interesting (and I think plausible) explanation of the Maharal - not necessarily that the children get invoked for blessings (though that would be great), but that they, too, become important people. – Fred Jan 5 '15 at 4:11
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Rabbi Zweig gave an amazing answer. You can read the whole thing here (in a week this link will become invalid and I will try to replace it with a permanent link). Here is the main part of his answer:

Yaakov is alluding to a very powerful message, one that would be crucial to all generations of Bnei Yisroel to come. Yosef had come to Egypt as a slave, sat in jail for a few years, and then rose to the highest possible position of authority, below only Pharaoh himself. Egypt was a place well known for immorality and idol worship. Yet, through it all, Yosef was able to maintain who he was and even raise children with the same values that he had absorbed from the house of his father Yaakov. Yaakov is alluding to this remarkable accomplishment and foretelling the importance of this for future generations. We bless our children that they should be like Ephraim and Menashe; children who grew up in an environment totally bereft of holiness, yet persevered in representing the values of their father and the Jewish people. Yosef raised children under the most difficult of circumstances and they turned out exactly like him. This is also why Yaakov gives them the ultimate recognition by replacing Yosef with them among the Shvatim, each one heading his own tribe. This further explains why we give our sons this blessing on the day of their bris. The day of one’s bris a child is “brought into the covenant of Avraham Avinu.” Avraham Avinu came from a family of idol worshippers and rose to make it his mission to bring Hashem into a world that had no knowledge of His presence. The very definition of being a Jew is bringing Hashem into this world by carrying on the values of your ancestors, no matter what life’s circumstances may bring.

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    This may be a better link, but I'm not sure how Rabbi Zweig's website works. – Shokhet Dec 29 '17 at 19:54
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Efraim and Menashe were the first pair of Jewish brothers in the Torah who lived in peace with each other. We therefore bless our children that they too should live in peace.

R Shraga Simmons at Aish writes this even better

Ephraim and Menashe were the first set of Jewish brothers who did not fight. Abraham's two sons – Isaac and Ishmael – could not get along, and their disagreement forms the basis of the Arab-Israeli conflict until today. The next generation – Isaac's twin sons, Jacob and Esav – were so contentious that Esav repeatedly sought to kill Jacob and instructed his descendants to do the same. The next generation was contentious as well: Jacob's sons sold Joseph into slavery.

Ephraim and Menashe represent a break from this pattern. This explains why Jacob purposely switched his hands, blessing the younger Ephraim before the older Menashe. Jacob wished to emphasize the point that with these siblings, there is no rivalry. (see Genesis 48:13-14)

Indeed, there is no greater blessing than peace among siblings. The words of King David ring true: "How good and pleasant is it for brothers to sit peacefully together" – Hiney ma tov u'ma'nayim, shevet achim gam yachad (Psalms 133:1).

  • I believe rabbi Hirsch gives this explanation. – mevaqesh Dec 30 '17 at 23:13

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