Joseph took them both – 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.
According to Rabbi DovBer (the Maggid) of Mezeritch, Ephraim represents consistently saintly individuals while Manasseh represents penitents. Each group is inspired by their pasts, but in different ways:
Consistently saintly individuals are inspired by the fact that G-d has made them successful in the past. Their past experience spurs them on to continue to do good.
In contrast, penitents recall the fact that they have in the past betrayed or forgotten about G-d, and are thereby fired with a greater yearning to become close to Him. This serves as their inspiration to do good.
We all embody both perspectives – that of Ephraim and that of Manasseh – and can therefore focus on both aspects of our past in order to glean the inspiration necessary to live up to our spiritual potential.
—from Daily Wisdom 3