Some communities have a lovely custom that parents bless their children before the Friday night meal; the father blesses his sons to be like Efraim and Menashe and blesses his daughters to be like the Matriarchs.
Of all the potential role models in our heritage, why are Efraim and Menashe the figures we want our sons to emulate in particular?
Hierarchies are inherent to family dynamics and structures. It is highly irregular to see “generation jumpers.” From the entire generation of Yakov’s grandchildren, they alone were considered equivalent to their uncles a generation earlier.
My Zaide explains that to excel as a Jew while born into Egyptian aristocracy is a hard thing. In comparison, it’s easy to be Yakov’s son in Yakov’s house.
Perhaps the blessing is about our hope that our children overcome everything in their way, no matter the odds.
My father explains that part of the family dynamic in the Torah is that brothers jealously compete with each other. The first pair of brothers who get along are Efraim and Menashe. Neither objected when Yaakov crossed his hand, predicting the younger son for greater things. Each was content for himself as well as his brother.
Perhaps the blessing is about their relationship with family, that they build each other up, instead of tearing each other down.
The book of Genesis is full of stories of jealous siblings whose strife tore their families apart. The book concludes with a family that broke the mold, with a story of siblings who accepted that life bestows different degrees of talent, ability, and opportunity.
It’s also possible that this was a trait exhibited by Rachel when she gave Leah the signs, dooming herself to years of solitude.
A family that can accept their differences is one that has a peaceful future ahead, and it’s a fitting blessing for our children.