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Joseph begot two children before the famine... He called the firstborn Manasseh "for G-d has removed (nashani) my heavy burdens and all my father's house. He called the second one Ephraim, for G-d has made me prosperous in the land where I have suffered (41:51-52).
It is easy to understand why Joseph referred to his heavy burdens which he no doubt suffered in prison. It is even easier to relate to his subsequently becoming prosperous. But what may be made of thanking G-d for having "removedů all my father's house"?
As an explanation, consider the previous events. Until the dreams, Joseph was Jacob's favorite son. After hearing the dreams, Jacob "kept the matter to himself" (37:11). He had rebuked Joseph, but the matter did not end there. Joseph - of all people, had caused a serious disturbance in the family. Joseph believed that his father's sending him to Shechem to meet the brothers purposely put his life in danger. Indeed, it was through his father's instructions and his brothers' actions that he had nearly been killed, left for dead in a pit, and finally sold to desert tribes. Joseph believed that he had been rejected and cut out of the lives of his family, very much including his father. His father had made no effort to inquire about his whereabouts. He was unwanted, left for dead, and his new life in Egypt was a fresh start.
It is part of human nature that everybody needs roots. When a person is rejected in a foreign society, he is likely to cling on to his stable past however unpleasant it might have been. Once, however, he is accepted, he may well come to quite naturally cast away those roots - especially as he becomes involved in directing the welfare of his new culture and society.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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Also by Jacob Solomon:
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