By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh
וַיְבָ֨רֲכֵ֜ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַהוּא֮ לֵאמוֹר֒ בְּךָ֗ יְבָרֵ֤ךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר יְשִֽׂמְךָ֣ אֱלֹ-הִ֔ים כְּאֶפְרַ֖יִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁ֑ה…׃
So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” … 48:20
On his deathbed, Yaakov Avinu tells Yosef that his two sons Ephraim and Menashe are going to be part of the twelve Shvatim, just like his other children. Then Yaakov Avinu inaugurates them by blessing the two sons of Yosef. However, the wording of the blessing that Yaakov bestows is intriguing; he tells them, “By you, the Jews shall bless (their children), saying G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”
What did Yaakov Avinu see in Yosef’s two sons that he felt they should be the model of blessing for the nation to this day? In Sefer Eved Hamelech, Rav Hominer explains that unlike the other shevatim Ephraim and Menashe were raised with no spiritual support system in Egypt which was the center of immorality and corruption of that age. Still, they were spiritually on par with the other shevatim who learned by their father Yaakov Avinu and had grown up in the land of Israel which spewed holiness. This showed that Ephraim and Menashe were capable of withstanding the harsh culture of galut. Yaakov Avinu, who knew that years of galut were ahead of them, wanted this strength instilled in all of his descendants.