Rabbi Robinson’s Sermon December 15, 2023

Mikketz 2023 Plaut p. 272 

Source Sheet by Yair Robinson 



Genesis 41:50-52 

(50) Before the years of famine came, Joseph became the father of two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On, bore to him. (51) Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, meaning, “God has made me forget completely my hardship and my parental home.” (52) And the second he named Ephraim, meaning, “God has made me fertile in the land of my affliction.” 


בראשית מ״א:נ׳-נ״ב 

(נ) וּלְיוֹסֵ֤ף יֻלַּד֙ שְׁנֵ֣י בָנִ֔ים בְּטֶ֥רֶם תָּב֖וֹא שְׁנַ֣ת הָרָעָ֑ב אֲשֶׁ֤ר יָֽלְדָה־לּוֹ֙ אָֽסְנַ֔ת בַּת־פּ֥וֹטִי פֶ֖רַע כֹּהֵ֥ן אֽוֹן׃ (נא) וַיִּקְרָ֥א יוֹסֵ֛ף אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם הַבְּכ֖וֹר מְנַשֶּׁ֑ה כִּֽי־נַשַּׁ֤נִי אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־כָּל־עֲמָלִ֔י וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽי׃ (נב) וְאֵ֛ת שֵׁ֥ם הַשֵּׁנִ֖י קָרָ֣א אֶפְרָ֑יִם כִּֽי־הִפְרַ֥נִי אֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּאֶ֥רֶץ עָנְיִֽי׃ 



Joseph appears to finally be at peace. He is now second only to Pharaoh, established and freed from bondage. He marries and has two children, named Menashe, “God has made me forget the hardship of my experience and home”, and Ephraim, G’d has made me fertile in this, the land of my affliction”. In so many ways, his naming of his children reflects the experience of so many refugees, so many who come up from destitution: they seek to forget their former plight, and rejoice in their newfound and hard-fought triumph. But the Malbim argues that Joseph, in fact, does not actually forget his former suffering. Rather, the names act as a kind of blessing, “reminding him of his former poverty so that he would never cease to be grateful.”  


We ourselves are descended from those who suffered in their former lands, and arriving here, had to endure grueling and punishing conditions before rejoicing in their new land, and leaving behind the old one. And we know it is important not to forget our past hardships, but remember, both that we ourselves never cease to be grateful, but also so that we may strive to help others, to lift up the downtrodden in our own midst, in our own day. As we bid farewell to Chanukah, we must remember our past, remember that mission, so that we can lift others up to holiness.