Parshat Vayechi 5783: Yaakov’s Burial, Ephraim and Menashe — “His Sons Carried Him…?”

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 5783: Yaakov’s Burial, Ephraim and Menashe — “His Sons Carried Him…”?

by Moshe Burt

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.

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 like that which he had commanded them, and 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 holding for a grave from Ephron the Hittite, facing Mamre.” (Sefer Breish’t. Perek 50, posukim 12-13 as rendered to English in the Sapirstein Edition The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary, page 565)

But Rashi provides commentary on Sefer Breish’t. Perek 50, posukim 12-13:

Rashi on posuk 12: “Like that which he had commanded them.” What was “that which he had commanded them.”? That is, what did they do that was “exactly like that which he had commanded them”?

Rashi on posuk 13: “And his sons carried him,” — but not his grandsons. We do not find Yaakov having issued commands as to how he was to be buried. Thus, “that which he had commanded them” must refer to that which follows, “and his sons carried him” (citing Mesiach Ilmim) According to their arrangement for traveling and encamping in the Wilderness (Rashi citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 13, posuk 29) they were assigned their places around the bier here. Levi shall not carry the coffin for he is destined to carry the Holy Ark [the Aron HaKodesh] (Rashi citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 4, posukim 4-6 and 15) and Yosef shall not carry it, for he is a king. Menashe and Ephraim shall take their places.

Rabbi Goldin provides context regarding the above arrangements (ibid, page 269, 271):

Upon hearing that Yaakov has become ill, Yosef gathers his sons, Menashe and Ephraim, and rushes to his father’s bedside.

During the ensuing conversations Yaakov takes two dramatic steps that carry powerful practical implications for the future.

1/ Yaakov proclaims that Menashe and Ephraim will be considered on a par with his own sons in the determination of his legacy. (“Ephraim and Menashe shall be mine like Reuven and Shimon.” Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 48, posuk 5) Through this statement, Yaakov creates the tribes of Ephraim and Menashe in place of the single tribe of Yosef. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 48, posuk 5)

2/ Yaakov blesses his grandchildren as follows: “Through you will Israel bless, by saying: ‘May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe…'” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 48, posuk 20) To this day, parents in Judaism bless their sons with this formula, while daughters are blessed with the prayer, “May Hashem make you like Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.”

Yaakov concretizes his relationship with Ephraim and Menashe through the creation of the tribes bearing their names, thereby insuring that the tribal system of Israel will span the generations. With great foresight, he consciously weaves the concepts of the extended family and of the intergenerational relationships into the very fabric of our national structure. These relationships… remain indispensable to the transmission and development of Judaism’s traditions across the ages.

When we pray that Hashem will make our sons “like Ephraim and Menashe,” we pray that our progeny succeed in maintaining the harmony that marked the relationship of Yosef’s sons.

It is unfortunate that our recent generations see a severe fracture between Observance and secularism among Am Yisrael which horribly contrasts the spirit of harmony expressed in Yaakov’s Bracha of “like Ephraim and Menashe.”

May we see the day, soon, when Am Yisrael returns to the spirit of harmony expressed as Rabbi Goldin concludes by again citing the Bracha (ibid, page 272):

“May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe,” we bless our sons. May you always be spiritually connected to your family and people, no matter where you live, no matter how physically distant you may be.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard now approaches the beginning of his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. 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 eight 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.