Won’t Ya Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise?

Old man rhythm is in my shoes
It’s no use to sittin’ and a-singin’ the blues
So be my guest, you got nothin’ to lose
Won’t ya let me take you on a sea cruise?

Johnny Rivers 1974

We go on a wonderfully relaxing cruise every week.  It’s only a 25-hour cruise but it makes us leave our regular worries and cares far behind us.   Yes, the Shabbat is a really big deal for the Lapin family.  As the sun drops towards the western horizon on Friday afternoon, the frantic turbulence that swirls through our lives starts slowing down.  Along with her Sous-Chefs and her assistants, all of whom are closely related to her, Susan puts the finishing touches to the three meals she will serve during the next 25 hours.  I get the garbage out, make sure the cars are properly parked for the weekend, and wrap up the remaining tasks of my week.  Finally, as the last rays of the sun turn red, I turn off my computer, telephone, fax machine, and tablet.  Then comes the last action of the week when Susan lights the Sabbath candles that sit upon the dining room table.  As their dancing incandescence casts highlights upon the white table cloth, we know Shabbat has arrived.  We’ve cast the mooring lines off down to the dock and we’re off on our sea cruise.

One of the moments that seems most moving to the guests at our Shabbat meal is when Susan and I bless our children. 

To the girls we say:

God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

To the boys we echo the words of Jacob to his grandchildren and we say:

God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.

Of all the many impressive Scriptural characters, why do we choose exactly these two rather obscure boys to bring blessing on our sons?  The answer is that in so doing, we are merely obeying the directives of Father Jacob.  Listen to the entire verse from which I just quoted a few words.

So he [Jacob] blessed them [Ephraim and Manasseh] that day, saying, “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,”
thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
(Genesis 48:20)

Let’s jump back a few verses to see how Father Jacob named the younger Ephraim before the older Manasseh.

Joseph brought his two sons to his father, Jacob/Israel for a blessing:

Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim with his right hand—to Israel’s left—and Manasseh with his left hand—to Israel’s right—and brought them close to him.
(Genesis 48:13)

Then Father Jacob startled his eleventh son:

But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head—thus crossing his hands—although Manasseh was the first-born.
(Genesis 48:14)

When Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he thought it wrong; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s.  “Not so, Father,” Joseph said to his father, “for the other is the first-born; place your right hand on his head.”
(Genesis 48:17-18)

Father Jacob then rather curtly told his son, Joseph, that he knew exactly what he was doing.

What led Joseph to exhibit such lamentable chutzpah as to correct his revered father in front of Manasseh and Ephraim? 

Joseph was super-sensitive to the family problems that can arise when birth order is not followed.  He knew of the terrible tension between his father Jacob and his uncle Esau, the older son, whom his father had supplanted many years earlier.  Jacob had also loved the younger Rachel more than her older sister Leah which set off tensions between the two sisters. And worst of all, Jacob had caused his sons to sell their young brother Joseph into slavery because Jacob seemed to favor Joseph.  Now Joseph watched his father continuing the terrible tradition of family tension into the next generation by placing his younger grandson beneath his right hand.

But Jacob knew exactly what he was doing.  Earlier I asked why we bring blessing on our sons by means of these two brothers and I explained that Jacob instructed us to do so.  However, that merely postpones the question: Why did Jacob direct us to bless our sons by invoking the names of Manasseh and Ephraim?

The answer is that after being kidnapped, enslaved, and rising to power, Joseph had to create a new life for himself in a far away land with its alien culture.  His two sons became his partners in this enterprise and he named them for the two most important tools needed by any of us trying to build a life.

He named Manasseh for material prosperity and financial success.  He named Ephraim for connection with God and the spiritual grounding and identity that brings.

Like most new immigrants, when Joseph arrived in Egypt he was a stranger in a strange land.  He naturally had no choice but to focus on the basics of life so he named his first son, Manasseh accordingly.  This is not to say he forgot his heritage or neglected his spiritual identityhe didn’t.  But he made sure of the basics of life’s necessities.  After he was established he was able to make his religious identity as a Hebrew his priority.  Now, when he had his second son, he named him Ephraim.

But later, for all his descendants, Father Jacob corrected the order by putting Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.  If you get your spiritual priorities right, the material prosperity follows, but the reverse hardly ever happens.

That’s why the spiritual priority of observing the Sabbath takes first place when the sun sets on Friday even though there is always more work we would otherwise think that we need to do.

32 thoughts on “Won’t Ya Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise?”

  1. I am also very interested in the online subscription program you have mentioned. I would prefer to have the option of either watching it or listening to it in a podcast format. From my limited knowledge, it is not that difficult to provide both video and audio formats, which allows people to gather together for study sessions where video is the preferred format, and also allows for listening while driving, exercising, etc.

    I am so looking forward to this!


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Karen–
      We’ll certainly make it well known if and when we are able to accomplish this dream

  2. I will very much subscribed to the Torah teachings in whichever form it takes, audio , video , written. I am hungry to learn as much as I can , so I can become a better person every day.

    Steven D’ Nigerian

  3. Thank You Rabbi Daniel. I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts in this writing. And the thought of your teaching through an online subscription program in which you teach verse by verse through the Bible from Genesis 1:1 onwards is so exciting. So exciting that I’m in, whichever format you choose.
    And the more I listen to you regarding the Sabbath, the more I am considering stopping all secular activity from Saturday into Sunday and focusing on my faith and God.
    May the Lord bless your work and thank you for making AJW available.

  4. Edward Rubinstein

    Dear Rabbi,

    The length of your program should depend on the length—and depth—of the passage. While it’s true that a discussion on virtually any one verse could take a half-hour or more (our sages weren’t known for being economical with words), if you’re going to take that week’s parsha, then an hour-an-a-half probably wouldn’t do it justice. I listen to Rashi everyday, and the week’s parsha (and it’s only skimming the surface) all together probably runs about 3 hours.

    Additionally, I would prefer audio, as often video will not operate unless the video is actually visible.

    Thank you.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you so much Ed-
      Much appreciate your thoughtful advice.

  5. Dear Rabbi, this is one of my favorite Thiught Tools to date. Thank you so much for the gift you give.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Glenn–
      We too have our favorites and sometimes, one we didn’t much care for, a year or two later we revisit and love.
      Appreciate your kind words

  6. Rabbi and Susan,
    This is a little strange because I was just listening to Genesis 48 this morning. I’m so glad that you brought up why Jacob did that switch. I would have never known that except by my Rabbi. I was wondering if Susan sings that blessing on the Shabbat meal like it was shown in the movie ‘Fiddler on the Roof.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Mark–
      We’re happy to know we added to your Bible study joy. Regarding your question referencing Fiddler on the Roof, I know this is going to sound a little puzzling but I often speak of it in personal appearances at church. I ask them to play “If I was a Rich Man” as the music while I ascend the stage and then I explain, a little tongue in cheek, that I consider most of Fiddler to be anti-Semitic. For instance, no Jew, I explain, would every say “If I was a rich man” We always sing, “When I’ll be a rich man” At any rate, there is much in that musical which I despise including the song Tradition. Nonetheless, I recognize it as a very successful Broadway production. The original story by a great Jewish writer Sholom Aleichem is incredibly poignant and I think even in the Broadway production, the conclusion as they arrive in America brings tears to the eyes. All of this is by way of explaining that nobody in real life, nobody at all sings the blessings to their children on Friday night. I can’t say I wouldn’t be entertained to watch Susan sing the blessing in homage to Golda in Fiddler but I won’t hold my breath.

  7. Thank you for your precious time. I would also subscribe, and dedicate and an hour to hour and half a week. I personally like to watch it keeps more attentive, and sometimes i like just listen when i’m driving. Either way I appreciate your wisdom.
    Thank you

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Ana-
      Thank you for helping me with that research on whether I would find an audience for a Bible study program verse by verse.
      Much appreciated

  8. I was just reading the passage of Joseph naming his two sons. This teaching provided the foundational insight and AJW that was needed. Thanks once again Rabbi and Susan Lapin!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re so welcome, Laurie,
      And thank you for your years of dedicated service to my friend.

  9. I agree with other request…..but I would add, Jesus let them live way over 100, and be as Moses, nothing lacking in their abilities. And give them time, space to put on CD, verse by verse teaching Gensis to Rev
    In Jesus name

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for your very welcome and received blessings, Daniel,
      See answer to Shawn nearby.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re so welcome Suzanne,
      One day a week to look inwards is good for everyone.

  10. I know this will never happen but I wish you guys would make a collection of cds of the Bible. Start to finish and just completely break it down. The wealth of knowledge and insight is amazing. Thank G-D for Orthodox Judaism.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Funny you should mention this, Shawn,
      How about an online subscription program in which I take you verse by verse through the Bible from Genesis 1:1 onwards?

      1. Miriam Girdler

        That would be absolutely wonderful. J’ve Read the first few chapters of Genesis dozens of times, and each time there is something new that amazes me.
        Where do I subscribe?

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Thank you for your encouraging words, Miriam,
          It is in design mode and I ask you how long you’d like the weekly class to be? My preference is for each online class to be an hour to an hour and a half and you’d get one each week. But some enthusiasts I have checked with prefer it much shorter. Would you prefer audio or would you want to see me teach rather than just hear?
          Thanks for your response

          1. This is exiting news! I have enjoyed your and Susan’s teachings in Ancient Jewish Wisdom series. It will be tremendously helpful to have a weekly class focus on learning one book. Either video or audio format does not really matter to me, but please launch the program soon!

          2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

            Thank you Siuling–
            Your letter is very helpful.
            Keep reading Thought Tools to find out when this will be available

          3. The longer and more detailed, the better! I prefer audio. But I can just listen to a video as well.

            Thrilled at the prospect!

            Would we be able to download the lessons and listen to them again?

      2. Dear Rabbi Lapin

        I would subscribe in a heartbeat!
        Thank you and Mrs Lapin for your teaching.

        Best wishes

  11. This is a great teaching. I love those sea cruises too, but I am still a new swabby and too often end up on the oars or some other distraction.
    Where can I read the reason Joseph named his boys as such? I’m sure it is part of AJW, but I like to read sources maybe you could direct me.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Louis,
      I usually prefer not to specify sources since I don’t want my teaching to start resembling academic dissertations choc full of numerous citations and bibliographies. Furthermore, the majority of sources are not available in translation but only in Hebrew or its close cousin, Aramaic. Also it is true to say in this field as in many other disciplines, those who could read the sources know where to find them and those who don’t know where they are won’t be able to read them. So I choose to do the hard work on behalf of my readers and make the learning experience as pleasurable as possible for them. But for those few who do wish to probe into esoteric volumes, these days, Google constitutes a worthy research assistant. Good luck.

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