The Pain of the Past

After years of trauma and suffering, Yosef’s fortunes change dramatically for the better as he is catapulted to greatness. The names he chooses for his two children reflect two approaches to the pain of the past. The name of his first child, Menasha, is linked by the Torah to the Hebrew word Nashani, which means to forget. At the turning point of his life Yosef wishes only to forget the past. However, the name of his second son, Ephraim, reflects the opposite approach, as the Torah explains this name as recognizing that God has made him fruitful in the land of his suffering. Yosef looks back at his suffering and acknowledges the blessing that emerged from it. The story of Yakov giving precedence to Ephraim over Manasha can be interpreted symbolically as choosing, as the Jewish people have done throughout the ages, not to forget but to remember. The phrase “Of blessed memory” expresses two important decisions: First, to remember. Second, that the memories should be a source of blessing.