Parshat Vayechi 5779: Like Yaakov, Yosef Elicits His Brothers’ Vow of Burial in Eretz Yisrael

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Vayechi is being sponsored by Moshe and Lauren Pitzele of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated as a Zechus for the success of their children. To Mishpochat Pitzele, many thanks for your sponsorship, and for your continued kindnesses.

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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.

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Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Vayechi 5779: Like Yaakov, Yosef Elicits His Brothers’ Vow of Burial in Eretz Yisrael

By Moshe Burt

As Sefer Breish’t draws to a close and an era ends, our Parshat Vayechi deals with a number of topics; a phenomenon unique in Torah; the “Closed Parshat” where there is no extra space separating the end of Parshat Vayigash from the beginning of Parshat Vayechi, in contrast to starting on a new line or separating the parshiyot by at least nine blank spaces as with the other parshiyot

In Yaakov’s last days, he blesses Yosef’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, and calls the brothers together to inform them as to when Moshiach would arrive, but the Divine presence left him. He gave Brachot to each of his sons before passing. This Parshat HaShevua discusses the vows elicited by Yaakov from his sons, and Yosef from his brothers regarding burial in Eretz Yisrael.

“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 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Commentary in the Artscroll Stone Chumash on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 47, posukim 28-31 provides a possible explanation as to Yaakov’s elicitation of this vow from Yosef (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.

This commentary also provides explanation of Yaakov’s reasons for insistence on burial in Eretz Yisrael:

…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.

We find, at the end of our Parsha, that Yosef asks a similar vow of his brothers:

“‘I am about to die, but Hashem will surely remember you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.’ Then Yosef adjured the B’nei Yisrael saying, ‘When Hashem will… remember you, then you must bring my bones up out of here.’ Yosef died at the age of one hundred and ten years; they embalmed him and he was placed in a coffin in Mitzrayim.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 50, posukim 24-26 — Parshat Vayechi as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides commentary on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 50, posuk 25 regarding the vow he asks of his brothers (page 289):

Yosef knew that his brothers and children would not have the power to bury him in Eretz Yisrael — Pharaoh and his people would not have permitted it — but he exacted this pledge that when the time came for the nation to leave the land of their servitude, they should take his remains with them. Meshech Chochmah suggests that did not impose this pledge on his own children because he knew that… Menashe… would settle on the eastern side of the Yarden [Jordan River], not in Eretz Yisrael proper, and that is not where he wanted to be buried.

Ultimately, Yosef was buried in Shechem, either because Yaakov gave him the city as a personal gift (citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 48, posuk 22 — Parshat Vayechi), or because his brothers wanted to make amends for their mistreatment of him in that very place, for it was in Shechem that they sold him (citing Sotah 13b)

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 R’Hirsch
regarding the Patriarch’s understanding of the destiny of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael in his vort on Parshat Vayechi:

“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. [It was] 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.

Both Yaakov’s and Yosef’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 both Am Yisrael’s connection to Our Land and 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 twice 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 four plus 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.