“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who was my shepherd all my life until today, the angel who saved me from all evil – may he bless the lads; may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they grow into a great people on earth” (Gen. 48:15-16).
Here are some interesting features of the blessing:
• It commences, “He blessed Joseph, and said…” because when children receive a blessing it gives a parent joy: parents’ great pleasure is in their children.
• The reference to Abraham and Isaac walking before God indicates that they lived in God’s presence. The righteous follow Psalm 16:8, “I set the Lord always before me”. Living is walking – hence the word halachah, from halach, to walk.
• God is a shepherd since shepherds care for each of their flock and save them from harm. This verse is the origin of Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd”.
• The blessing first talks about God and then an angel because angels are God’s agents. Malach, an angel, literally means “a messenger”.
• When Jacob said that his grandchildren would be called by the names of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac, he prayed that Menasheh and Ephraim would honour their ancestors’ tradition.
• What does “grow into a great people” mean? Here “great” denotes numerous. Jacob’s family would have been much larger if not for centuries of persecution.