A Fathers’ Two Blessings

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Rav Soloveitchik asserted that every father should convey two separate Brachot to his children. One regarding his role within the nation of Israel and the world, and one a personal guiding message towards nurturing his strengths and abilities within himself.

The Rav developed these ideas based on the two Brachot that Yaakov Avinu bestowed upon his grandchildren, Efrayim and Menasheh.[Bereishin 48:13]. When Yosef presents his two sons to Yaakov, he places Menasheh to the right of Yaakov and Efrayim to his left. Yaakov however, switches his hands and places his right hand upon Efrayim and his left hand on Menasheh. He then proceeds with the blessing of “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless these youths….” . At this point Yosef protests and asks that his father place his right hand upon Menasheh and the left upon Efrayim, but Yaakov refuses, and continues with the second blessing.

Why did Yosef not protest at the beginning of the first Bracha? Why did he wait with his objection until the second Bracha? The Rav suggested that the first Bracha was related to entire Klal Yisrael in the aggregate. In this sense, all children were blessed equally. The second Bracha was related to the individual within Knesset Yisrael, a Bracha which connected to each individuals attributes. Yosef was not concerned about Yaakov’s positioning of his hands in regard to the first Blessing because this blessing applied equally to all of Klal Yisrael. When it came to the individual blessings, however, Yosef felt that as a firstborn, Menasheh’s strengths were such that he should be given preference. Yaakov replied that Efrayim would display greater talents and should be given preference. When Yaakof blessed his own sons, he also blessed them in the dual manner; first he blessed each one individually as part of Knesset Yisrael, then he blessed them as a group, as Klal Yisrael. So should each father and grandfather convey a dual Bracha for each child. Each individual has a personal mission in life to fulfill but also has a role to play within the Tzibbur community; the destiny of Klal Yisrael .

[Source: Moriah 1974)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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