Yaakov is about to depart this world and he blesses his children and grandchildren. To Ephraim and Menasha he says: “…by you shall Israel bless saying, ‘may Hashem make you like Ephraim and like Menasha’”, YESIMCHA ELOKIM KE’EFRAIM VECHIMENASHE.(Gen. 48,20)
It is strange that of all the people Yaakov could have picked as models for future generations he picked these two. Why did he not pick Avraham or Yitzchak? Why did he not pick Yosef or Yehuda or one of the other tribes? Why specifically these two?
He purposely picked Ephraim and Menasha because they both grew up in a non-Jewish environment. They lived in Egypt surrounded by the Egyptian culture and having no other Jewish individuals with whom to associate. Surely Yosef created a Jewish home for them, but once they went out of the home they were surrounded by Galut and a hostile environment.
Yaakov knew that Jews would not always be in a Jewish context. He knew that they would have to confront the greater world with its hostility and hatred to Jews. He knew that these two grandchildren faced these very same problems and were able to overcome them and maintain their Jewish beliefs. This, he prayed, would be true for his descendants. Every father blesses his children Friday night with the same hope and prayer that they should be as successful as Yaakov’s grandchildren were in facing the outside world.