The Greater Blessings

Yael Eckstein  |  January 4, 2023

Man blessing his sons

But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” — Genesis 48:19

One of the founding principles of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is God’s eternal promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you.” This is one of 12 devotions exploring the concept of blessing, barak, which is so important to both Christians and Jews.

Each Friday night, right before we sit down to the Sabbath meal, Jewish parents bless our children. We place our hands on top of each child’s head and bless him or her. And this custom has its roots in the Bible — at the end of the Book of Genesis.

Right before Jacob died, Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob for a blessing. Manasseh, the older brother, was placed on Jacob’s right side, while Ephraim was placed at Jacob’s left. In the Bible, the right side represents primacy and strength, so Joseph figured that his older son deserved the greater blessing.

Surprisingly, Jacob crossed his hands and placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. Thinking his father made a mistake, Joseph tried to correct him. However, Jacob explained, “He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he…”

Jacob foresaw that Ephraim, the younger son, had more potential for greatness, so he gave him the greater blessings.

The Greater Blessings

The Jewish sages ask: If Ephraim was more naturally gifted, why not give Manasseh the greater blessings? If Ephraim had natural gifts that Manasseh lacked, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Manasseh needed the blessings more?

The sages explain that the greater a person’s potential, the more they need blessings. The gifts and talents that we are born with come with challenges equal to our potential. God wants each of us to become as great as we can possibly be, so He gives each person challenges that will push us to reach our highest heights. Ephraim needed the greater blessing because his trials in life would be that much harder than his brother’s.

Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking that their challenges in life are a signal that they aren’t destined for greatness. We believe that our negative character traits or sinful desires mean that we are doomed to failure. However, the sages teach us that the opposite is true. The greater a person’s challenges, the greater that person’s potential is and the more they need the greater blessings.

We shouldn’t confuse our shortcomings with our destiny. Instead, we need to ask God for His blessings so that we can transform our challenges into our strengths and become the best people we can be.

Your Turn:

What are your biggest challenges? What character traits do you struggle with? Pray to God to give you the strength and blessings to use those traits for the good, to become the best you possible.

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