Parshat Vayechi 5778: The Burial of Yaakov/Yisrael — Paradigm for the Jews’ Future Life and Burial in, and Connection With Eretz Yisrael

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayechi is being sponsored by Dr. Pinchas and Penina Klahr and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of their son Shmuel Zanvil Tzvi’s Bar Mitzvah. To the Klahr family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayechi 5778: The Burial of Yaakov/Yisrael — Paradigm for the Jews’ Future Life and Burial in, and Connection With Eretz Yisrael

By Moshe Burt

“The Sapirstein Edition: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary” renders the opening posukim of our Parshat Vayechi:

“Yaakov lived in the land of Mitzrayim seventeen years; and the days of Yaakov — the years of his life — were one hundred and forty-seven years. The time approached for Yisrael to die, so he called for his son, for Yosef, and said to him, Please — if I have found favor in your eyes, …do this kindness and truth with me — please don’t bury me in Mitzrayim.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 47, posukim 28-29 — Parshat Vayechi)

Commentary in the Artscroll Stone Chumash provides a possible explanation (pages 268-269):

…Yaakov sent for Yosef — the only one of his sons who held power — and asked Yosef to swear that he would bring him to Eretz Yisrael for burial in the Cave of the Machpela, in Hevron.

The commentary also provides explanation of Yaakov’s reasons for insistence on burial in Eretz Yisrael: that one day, a plague of lice would strike Mitzrayim and would swarm beneath his body if he were buried there, that he knew that those buried outside of Eretz Yisrael would not come to life at T’chiyat HaMeitim (Resurrection) until they rolled through the earth to Eretz Yisrael and that Yaakov did not want the Mitzrayim to worship him as a “deity”, a source of idol worship.

Rav Alex Israel who lives in the town of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion and teaches at Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi and at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies cites in his vort on Parshat Vayechi a story reflective of
Yaakov’s insistence on being buried in Eretz Yisrael:

“A story about Rabbi Barkirya and R.Elazar who were walking in the district of Tiberias. The observed the arrival of a coffin from outside Israel which had been transported for burial within Eretz Yisrael. R. Barkirya commented: What does it help if one dies in Chutz La’aretz to be buried in Eretz Yisrael? About this phenomenon, I apply the verse (Jeremiah 2:7) “They have made my land an abomination.” – in their lifetime, “And they come and defile my land” – in their state of death. R. Elazar replied: Once they are buried in Eretz Yisrael, God forgives them; as it states (Devarim 32:42): “And his land will atone for his people.”” (Bereshit Rabba 96:5)

Rav Israel, in the same vort, then questions:

Is a person who lives outside Israel and then comes to be buried there rejecting the land twice? – by refusing to live there, and then bringing the impurity of the dead within its borders. That is R. Barkirya’s view.

R’ Elazar sees great advantage in burial in Eretz Yisrael irrespective of one’s life outside that land.

The above Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary also explains that Yaakov/Yisrael wanted to establish a principle for his offspring — ultimately the Am Yisrael, that Eretz Yisrael was their heritage. No matter how successful or comfortable they became while dispersed and sojourning in any other land, in any other nation, their one and only true home and heritage is in Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Israel, in the above vort, cites R’ Hirsch in the same vort regarding the destiny of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael:

“Jacob who had lived seventeen years with his family in Egypt, could have noticed what a powerful influence the “being gripped by the land” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 47, posuk 27) was beginning to have on his descendants; How they already began to see the Jordan in the Nile, and to find in their stay in Egypt no Galut (exile). Sufficient motive [was] this, for him [Yaakov/Yisrael] to press with such ceremonious solemnity that they should not bury him in Egypt, but that they should carry him to the land of their old true homeland. Motive enough for him to say to them: You hope and wish to live in Egypt. I do not wish even to be buried there. This is also why he did not express this wish as Jacob, from his individual personal standpoint, but as “Israel” as bearer of the national mission, as a warning of the national future of his children.” (Hirsch on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 47, posuk 29)

This author concludes that Torah seems to indicate, by the posuk: “The time approached for Yisrael to die…”, that Yaakov, with his new Divinely-given name: Yisrael, indicating prevailing, superiority, is the first of a species. With the passing of Yisrael comes the birth of a superior nation who ultimately prevails, despite all travails, for all time.

Yaakov’s requirement of burial only in Eretz Yisrael provides a crucial lesson for our time, for Israel’s politicians and national leaders, as well as for our brethren in Chutz L’Aretz who sojourn but yet believe themselves to be living — to be at home, in venues outside of Eretz Yisrael, as to the importance to Am Yisrael of every meter of Our Land.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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