Better the Ordinariness of Ephraim and Menashe Than the Alienation of the Sons of Moses

By Rosensaft, Menachem Z. | Midstream, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Better the Ordinariness of Ephraim and Menashe Than the Alienation of the Sons of Moses


Rosensaft, Menachem Z., Midstream


Traditionally, a Jewish father blesses his sons with, Jacob's Biblical blessing for his grandsons, Joseph's sons: "Adonai make you like Ephraim and Menashe." (Genesis 48:20) (The blessing for girls is the fervent wish that they grow up to resemble the Matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.) But why Ephraim and Menashe, rather than any other Biblical figures? After all, they appear only briefly on the scene, when they are introduced to their grandfather, who includes them with his own sons as his heirs. The characters of Ephraim and Menashe have special significance in that they are the only ones of Jacob's grandchildren to be blessed by him, but there is no record of their having achieved greatness in their own right. Why should we not instead want our children to be like Moses or King David or any of the inspiring prophets such as Elijah or Isaiah?

The answer may be in the fact that Ephraim and Menashe were the recipients of affection from their grandfather. When Joseph brings his sons to his father, Jacob "kissed them and embraced them." (Genesis 48:10) Perhaps the originators of the traditional blessing understood the importance of parental love and affection in the formation of a human being's personality and values.

When Joseph learned of his father's final illness, he took his sons with him to visit Jacob. Joseph clearly wanted his sons to receive their grandfather's blessing and become an integral link in the chain of the descendants of Abraham. And indeed, Joseph apparently enjoyed a close relationship with his sons. "Joseph lived to see children of the third generation of Ephraim; the children of Machir, son of Menashe were also born on Joseph's knees." (Genesis 50:23)

The prominence the Torah gives to Ephraim and Menashe stands in stark contrast to its failure to refer to Moses' two sons in any meaningful or even substantive way.

The third chapter of the Book of Numbers, for example, begins with the words, "This is the line of Moses and Aaron on the day that Adonai spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai," but then immediately continues as follows:

   These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadav, the firstborn,
   Avihu, Eleazar, and Itamar. These are the names of the sons of
   Aaron, the anointed kohanim, whom he consecrated to serve as
   kohanim. But Nadav and Avihu died before Adonai when they offered
   alien fire before Adonai in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had
   no sons. And so it was that Eleazar and Itamar served as kohanim in
   the presence of Aaron, their father.

We know, of course, that Moses had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, whom we meet fleetingly as tangential characters in the Book of Exodus, with neither having a speaking role, yet they are not mentioned here at all, almost as if Moses had been childless. To understand fully the significance of this stark omission, it is important to review some relevant aspects of Moses' life.

Moses flees Egypt after killing an Egyptian and finds refuge in Midian where he marries Tzipporah, the daughter of the Midianite priest Reuel, also referred to as Jethro. Moses and Tzipporah have a son, Gershom. The Torah does not provide any details about Moses' life in Midian, except that years later (according to tradition, 40 years later), when the story resumes, Moses is tending Jethro's sheep. The former Egyptian prince appears content to be a sheep herder. Moses then has his first encounter with God, Who wants him to return to Egypt. When Moses at long last, reluctantly, agrees to go, "Moses took his wife and sons (plural) and mounted them on an ass, and went back to the land of Egypt." (Exodus 4:20)

There follows a bizarre two-verse scene, unconnected with and seemingly unrelated to the main narrative, where God "sought to kill" Moses at an encampment, and Tzipporah apparently saves his life by taking a flint and circumcising "her son." Twice, once before and once after GOd spares Moses' life, Tzipporah calls either Moses or her unnamed son "a bridegroom of blood. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Better the Ordinariness of Ephraim and Menashe Than the Alienation of the Sons of Moses
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.