Our Parsha relates how Yaakov chose Ephraim and Menashe -Yosef’s children- as the paradigm for giving blessings to our children. Even today, many have the custom to reiterate this charge to a son- “G-d should make you like Ephraim and Menashe” (48:20). Why were they chosen as the example, and not the sons of Yaakov?
Some like to explain that the blessing is meant to connote a kind of strength one needs during the diaspora. As opposed to the other “tribes”, Efraim and Menashe were raised alone in a secular Egyptian culture, and even so, they remained true to their values.
Although the idea may be nice, when it does not exactly equate to a fitting blessing for modern times. True, we too live within a secular culture- but we live among even more Jews than the “other tribes” did! How do we qualify for the blessing to be like Ephraim and Menashe? We don’t live “alone”! Relative to them we live with an abundance of Jews in our cities!
Perhaps if we tweak the message, it can speak even to us in our Jewish communities. The lesson of Ephraim and Menashe is not simply to persevere when alone, but to be alone in our values, meaning independent, even among other Jews. It is too easy for us to live Jewish-ly simply because our neighbor or our friends lives that way. Instead, we should be like Ephraim and Menashe who were forced to be alone; independently believing in Torah values. Not because others did so (because for them there were no others) but because they themselves truly believed in it and chose it as a lifestyle worth living.