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THE ELEVATION OF EPHRAIM & MANASSEH

December 23rd, 2015

When Jacob summoned Joseph towards the end of his life (Bereishit 48), he reminisced with his son about some key moments that had occurred many years earlier. He also informed Joseph that Ephraim and Manasseh would henceforth have equal status his own children, Reuben and Simeon.

The meaning of his reminisces and of his decision to elevate Joseph’s sons is hotly disputed by the classic commentators, who divide up into two camps. In one corner is Ibn Ezra and his team, in the other Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon and his supporters. Both views are compelling, and both revealing.

The one astounding fact to emerge out of all this is that although Rachel was certainly buried near Beit Lechem, today’s Bethlehem may be an entirely different place – which means that the widely revered and visited Tomb of Rachel may not actually be where Rachel is buried!

Rabbi Dunner explores both interpretations, each of which illustrates how what Jacob told Joseph cannot be dismissed as the ramblings of an elderly man in the moments before death. Rather, his remarks held the key to crucial aspects of his family’s dynamics, both in the past and going forward.

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