Wednesday, January 11, 2006

יְשִׁמְךָֿ א' כְּאֶפְֿרַיִם וְכִֿמְנַשֶּׁה

Bereishit/Genesis 48:13-14:
And then Yoseif took the two of them — Efrayim in his right, at Yisra’eil's left; and Menashe in his left, at Yisra’eil's right — and approached him [Yisra’eil/Ya‘aqov]. And then Yisra’eil stretched out his right hand, and placed it on Efrayim's head, him being the younger one, and his left hand on Menashe's head; he switched his hands, for Menashe was the firstborn.

There's a lot of emphasis on directions here — Yoseif placing his sons in the proper order, Yisra’eil switching his hands and fouling up Yoseif's preparations... all this 'right' and 'left' side, and 'right' and 'left' hand.

What I find interesting is that we know that 'right' and 'left' in Semitic languages are not just relative directions, but objective directions as well. Avraham tells Lot:
אם השמאל ואימנה
ואם הימין ואשמאילה

If you go left/north, I'll go right/south;
and if you go right/south, I'll go left/north.


We know that there are a number of words for each cardinal direction, and one set is based on directions relative to a human body:
  • East is קדם, forwards (assumedly facing the rising sun)
  • West is אחור, behind, as in הים האחרון 'the Sea Behind' (=the Mediterranean)
  • North is שמאל, left, and cognate with the normal Arabic word for 'north', شمال (šamāl)
  • South is ימין, right, as in the place-name Yemen — اليمن (alyaman) in Arabic, תימן in Hebrew


So my point is this...
Ya‘aqov Avinu insists on blessing Efrayim with his right hand and Menashe with his left hand. Correspondingly, within the overall tribal territory of the Children of Yoseif, the tribe of Efrayim receives its tribal territory in the south (right), and Menashe receives its in the north (left)!
Coincidence? I think not!
See maps here, here, and here

16 Comments:

Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I like your cool title of the post. Of course, I don't know whether anyone besides you, me, and Alan Scott will get it.

1/11/2006 5:22 PM  
Blogger Lab Rab said...

If you are willing to do a bit of homework, you could investigate whether this order is 'inverted' in some way from what you would expect.

In general why the tribes inherited where they did is a mystery to me.

Your insight is ironic because Ephrayim is always identified as the kingdom of the north.

1/11/2006 8:08 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Your insight is ironic because Ephrayim is always identified as the kingdom of the north.

Ah ha! But it's the southernmost tribe of the North!

1/11/2006 8:40 PM  
Anonymous brother gershom said...

Marge, I didn't pick up on the sin-shin thing in the title until (i assume that's what) you mentioned.

1/12/2006 8:10 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Yes, Gershom, of course.

(Why "Gershom"?)

1/12/2006 10:07 AM  
Anonymous brother gershom said...

he's an older brother (though we dont really know enough about him to tell if he's evil, we can assume he is by his relative age) and his parsha's relatively nearby

1/12/2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger Rabbi Berel Wein said...

nice vort, but then how does
כְּאֶפְֿרַיִם וְכִֿמְנַשֶּׁה
fit.what, when we bless people with כְּאֶפְֿרַיִם וְכִֿמְנַשֶּׁה do mean according to your idea?

1/12/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

R' Wein:

The vort doesn't affect the meaning of blessing people by referencing Efrayim & Menashe; the idea is still there that unlike the many other pairs and sets of brothers in Bereishis, they succeeded in having their 'natural' hierarchy overturned without angsty sibling rivalry, and remained a unified House of Yoseif even though the younger tribe, Efrayim, assumed a greater role.

All i'm really pointing out here is the congruence of hands and map-directions.

1/12/2006 12:19 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Bro:

you mean brother menashe :-P

1/12/2006 1:05 PM  
Anonymous brother gershom said...

and *that*s why I didn't sign as "brother ephraim"

1/12/2006 1:05 PM  
Anonymous that gershom dude said...

menashe actually. whatever

1/12/2006 1:06 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

whoa, check out that timing!

i guess blogger/blogspot doesn't track comments down to the second, 'cause i sure don't have psychic or prophetic powers! ...or do i?

1/12/2006 1:07 PM  
Blogger The Jewish Freak said...

Clever post.

1/12/2006 3:34 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

he's an older brother (though we dont really know enough about him to tell if he's evil, we can assume he is by his relative age) and his parsha's relatively nearby

How about Aharoun?

1/12/2006 5:34 PM  
Anonymous that brother dude said...

aharon's not so evil.

1/12/2006 6:19 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

He does make the ‘eigel, though.

1/12/2006 6:44 PM  

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