now, your two sons who were born to you in the land of Egypt before my
coming to you in Egypt shall be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine
like Reuben and Simeon. But
progeny born to you after them shall be yours; they shall be included
under the name of their brothers (48:5-6).
And now, your two sons who were born
to you in the land of Egypt before my coming to you in Egypt shall be
mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine like Reuben and Simeon. But progeny
born to you after them shall be yours; they shall be included under the
name of their brothers (48:5-6). Jacob's reasoning here is highly puzzling:
Why should Joseph's sons born before Jacob's arrival in Egypt be considered
Jacob's, while his later-born sons would belong to Joseph? The opposite
would seem to make more sense, that those born to Joseph when he was alone
in Egypt should belong to him, while the ones who grew up under their
grandfather's guidance should belong to Jacob.
However, we can understand Jacob's
claim as a profound lesson in the education a father is required to give
his son, or a teacher his student. The responsibility to train children
and students in the ways of Torah applies not only while they are at home
or in the confines of the beis medrash, when they are relatively
receptive to education. A parent or teacher must make sure his charges'
training is so firmly rooted that they will continue solidly in the ways
they have learned even when they are far away from the father or the rebbe,
in distant lands among pagans and atheists. They must strive to equal
the training Joseph received from Jacob, a training so fundamental that
wherever he went, Joseph saw his father's image before him guiding him
in his way, a training so powerful that under its influence Joseph raised
the two sons born to him in Egypt to follow in his father's footsteps
as if they had been raised by Jacob and not by their father, Joseph.
This is why Jacob claimed them as
his own children, as much as Reuben and Simeon. Any later children born
to Joseph after Jacob's arrival in Egypt would grow up in the Torah environment
created by their uncles and cousins, and thus the impact of Jacob's greatness
as seen through his chinuch to Joseph would not be as readily discernible
as it was in Ephraim and Manasseh. Therefore he had no claim on them.