Even when giving gifts, we can’t always give children what they want. Although a child may be upset with what they got, those moments are opportunities for children to learn how to deal with disappointment.
When Yaakov is ready to give the blessings to Yosef’s children, he knows full well who they are, saying that Ephrayim and Menashe will be like Reuven and Shimon (Bereshit 48:5):
ועתה שני בניך הנולדים לך בארץ מצרים עד באי אליך מצרימה לי הם אפרים ומנשה כראובן ושמעון יהיו לי.
“And now, your two sons who were born to you in the land of Egypt before my coming to you in Egypt shall be mine; Ephrayim and Menashe shall be mine like Reuven and Shimon.”
Yet merley a few pesukim later, Yaakov says (Bereshit 48:8):
וירא ישראל את בני יוסף ויאמר מי אלה.
“Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and he said, who are these?”
It seems odd that Yaakov would forget who Ephrayim and Menashe were a few minutes after they were brought into the room.
Netziv, in Ha’amek Davar, suggests that Yaakov knew who they were, but he wanted Yosef to mention them by name to show further endearment for them, making them feel special at the time of the blessing. R. Tzvi Elimelech Panet suggests another interesting answer in his book HaTzvi VeHatzedek which seems to take the opposite approach. Yaakov felt that the best way for them to receive a beracha was by being humbled. Therefore, he pretended not to know who they were.
In truth, these two messages are not contradictory. One can have a humbling experience that can boost one’s self-esteem. One of the ways of dealing with disappointment is learning to refocus one’s priorities, ultimately boosting self-esteem. In other words, the blessings in our lives are most satisfying when we realize that we aren’t worthy of receiving them and, at the same time, appreciate receiving them and figuring out how to make the most of them. Pride in what we have accomplished, coupled with humility, is a recipe for seeing the blessings in our lives.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay