Torah Weekly

For the week ending 25 December 2004 / 13 Tevet 5765

Parshat Vayechi

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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After 17 years in Egypt, Yaakov senses his days drawing to a close and summons Yosef. He has Yosef swear to bury him in the Machpela cave, the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sara, Yitzchak and Rivka. Yaakov falls ill and Yosef brings to him his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Yaakov elevates Ephraim and Menashe to the status of his own sons, thus giving Yosef a double portion that removes the status of first-born from Reuven. As Yaakov is blind from old age, Yosef leads his sons close to their grandfather. Yaakov kisses and hugs them. He had not thought to see his son Yosef again, let alone Yosef's children. Yaakov begins to bless them, giving precedence to Ephraim, the younger, but Yosef interrupts him and indicates that Menashe is the elder. Yaakov explains that he intends to bless Ephraim with his strong hand because Yehoshua will descend from him, and Yehoshua will be both the conqueror of Eretz Yisrael and the teacher of Torah to the Jewish People. Yaakov summons the rest of his sons in order to bless them as well. Yaakov's blessing reflects the unique character and ability of each tribe, directing each one in its unique mission in serving Hashem. Yaakov passes from this world at age 147. A tremendous procession accompanies his funeral cortege up from Egypt to his resting place in the cave of Machpela in Chevron. After Yaakov's passing, the brothers are concerned that Yosef will now take revenge on them. Yosef reassures them, even promising to support them and their families. Yosef lives out the rest of his years in Egypt, seeing Efraim's great-grandchildren. Before his death, Yosef foretells to his brothers that Hashem will redeem them from Egypt. He makes them swear to bring his bones out of Egypt with them at that time. Yosef passes away at the age of 110 and is embalmed. Thus ends Sefer Bereishet, the first of the five Books of the Torah. Chazak!


On Our Way Home

"...please dont bury me in Mitzraim." (47:29)

Over the millennia, the constant hope of the Jew was to return to Eretz Yisrael and if not while alive, then suffice it at least that our physical remains should be interred in its holy soil.

The source of this desire comes from this weeks Torah portion.

Why did Yaakov so desire to be buried in Eretz Yisrael? There were several reasons:

The mystical sources teach that those who are buried in Eretz Yisrael will be the first to arise at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead. For those who are buried in the Diaspora, G-d will create special tunnels. Through these tunnels a persons body will roll until it reaches Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov wanted to spare himself the pain of rolling through these tunnels.

Another consideration was that the Egyptians might turn him into a god posthumously. If he were buried in Egypt the chance of them worshipping his remains was that much higher.

Also, Yaakov foresaw the Ten Plagues that would afflict Egypt, and he knew that the plague of lice would infest corpses as well as the living. He did not want G-d to perform a miracle for him to escape that fate.

However, the reason that speaks to us most loudly across the millennia is that Yaakov did not want to be buried in Egypt because he was concerned that the generations that came after him might surmise that if Yaakov was buried in Egypt, the land of Egypt must also be a holy place.

We are the descendents of Yaakov. It was the wish of our great ancestor that however comfortable we may become in our exile, we should never forget that there is nothing holy about the soil of Sydney, Paris or Boro Park.

They are just temporary stops on our way home.

  • Source Bereshet Rabba, Rabbeinu Bachya

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