Parshat Vayechi 5782: Yaakov’s Burial and the Balagon at Ma’arat HaMachpeila

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Vayechi is being sponsored by Yitzchak and Leyla Gross of Wynnewood, PA to commemorate the Yarhtzeit of Yitzchak’s Mother: Chaya Yita Sarah Bat Aharon. To Mishpochat Gross, many thanks for your sponsorship, your kindnesses through the years in helping facilitate Sefer Torah recycling and for your continued kindnesses.

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 5782: Yaakov’s Burial and the Balagon at Ma’arat HaMachpeila

by Moshe Burt

Parshat Vayechi is known as the “closed parsha.” The Artscroll Stone Chumash notes at the beginning of our Parsha:

In the entire Torah…, Vayechi is unique in that there is no extra space between it and the preceding Parsha, in contrast to the general rule that a Sidrah begins on a new line or that it is separated from the previous one by at least a nine-letter space. Rashi, therefore, describes Vayechi as closed, a condition that is meant to teach something about the mood of Yaakov’s children when he died. (The Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 268)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides context regarding the last days of Yaakov’s life in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t (pages 265):

As Yaakov’s life nears the end, … [he] turns to his son Yosef with the following request: “Do not bury me in Egypt. For I will lie with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb.” (Rabbi Goldin rendered to English Sefer Breish’t. Perek 47, posukim 29-30)

Yaakov… delineates, in detail, the provenance of the Cave of Machpeila [Ma’arat HaMachpeila], the patriarchal burial site in Hevron:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite: in the cave which is in the field of Machpeila. which faces Mamre in the land of Canaan; the field which Avraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial holding. There they buried Avraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Yitzchak and Rivka his wife and there I buried Leah. The purchase of the field and the cave within it were from the Hittites.” (Rabbi Goldin rendered to English Sefer Breish’t. Perek 49, posukim 29-32)

After Yaakov’s death, Yosef moves to fulfill his father’s wishes.

Torah now relates:

“His sons did for him exactly as he had instructed them. His sons carried him to the land of Canaan and they buried him in the Cave of Machpeila field, the field that Avraham had bought as a burial estate from Ephron the Hittite, facing Mamre.” (Sefer Breish’t. Perek 50, posukim 12-13 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Many years ago, back in Philadelphia — in the “Old Country,” this author heard a vort from Rabbi Pinchas Yehoshua Kaganoff (presumably attributed to Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch) who illustrated how the words of the written Torah (Torah Sh’bektzav) are equated like the shorthand notes a student takes in a class or a lecture, whereas the Oral Torah (Torah bal Peh) provides the details, the full picture.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides notes on Sefer Breish’t. Perek 50, posuk 13 which indicate that posukim 12-13 were not as “cut and dry” as Torah would indicate and which seem an example of what Rav Kaganoff describes (Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 287):

“His sons carried him.” After the eulogies were over, his sons carried the coffin on their shoulders to the Cave of Machpeila. (The Artscroll Chumash citing Abarbanel)

The Talmud relates that Eisev contested Yaakov’s right to be interred in the cave, whereupon the fleet-footed Naftali dashed all the way back to Egypt to bring the deed (as noted above, Sefer Breish’t. Perek 49, posuk 21 [Yaakov’s Bracha to Naftali]). When Chushim, the deaf son of Dan, realized what was happening, he became infuriated and shouted, “Shall my grandfather lie there in disgrace until Naftali returns from Egypt!” Thereupon, Chushim took a club and struck Eisev so hard that he killed him. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Sotah 13a) According to Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 36, the force of the blow decapitated Eisev, and his head rolled into the cave, at Yaakov’s feet.

Since Eisev studied Torah under Avraham and Yitzchak, he deserved some reward. But his study was only a mental exercise that never entered his bloodstream or his organs. He never took the Torah to heart, or used it to guide his actions. Thus, only his head could enter the cave for burial, but not his limbs and other organs. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing R’ Aharon Kotler)

Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned by the politicians of the current slap-dash coalition government of Israel from the story of Eisev’s fate regarding his contestation of Yaakov’s right to be interred in the Ma’arat HaMachpeila, regarding such issues as the extreme leftist democrat Biden-Harris regime’s pressure on Israel to open a consulate for the non-existent “palestinians(sic).”

We conclude this vort with Rabbi Goldin’s context on Judaism’s history (“Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t, page 281):

[Our] history effectively begins twice. An introductory, pre-national era is launched when Avraham journeys to Canaan at Hashem’s Command. This period, the patriarchal era , comes to an end with Yaakov’s death.

Our story then begins again with the birth of the nation of Jews — as we journey from the cauldron of slavery, through the liberation from Egypt [Yetziyat Mitzrayim], to the Revelation at Sinai.

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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