The Weekly Parshat Shavua Daf is a Newsletter which includes Divrei Torah on the Parsha, Halacha and Educational columns, as well as for kids - all in a Zionistic approach. The "Torah MiTzion Kollel" program establishes centers for the study of Torah and promulgates the connection between Torah and Israel. Torah Mitzion/ "Beit Meir" /54 King George Street /P.O. Box 71109 /Jerusalem, 91710 /Israel Tel: +972-(0)2-620-9020; http://www.torahmitzion.org/eng/default.asp
Rav Shlomo Sobol, former Rosh Kollel, detroit
This weeks Parasha opens with a description of the last days of the life of Yaakov Avinu after his descent to Mitzrayim. Yaakov’s last request of his son Yosef is that he be buried in Eretz Yisrael.
And the time drew near for Yisrael to die: and he called his son Yosef, and said to him, If now I have found favor in your sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Mitzrayim: but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Mitzrayim, and bury me in their burial place.
At the end of the Parasha, when Yosef is about to die, he too commands Bnei Yisrael to eventually bury him in Eretz Yisrael.
And Yosef took an oath of the children of Yisrael, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.
Why is burial in Eretz Yisrael of such great importance? Why did both Yaakov and Yosef made this special request before they died? We all understand the great virtue of living in Eretz Yisrael. We all appreciate the merit of performance of Mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael. We all feel the great sanctity of Eretz Yisrael. Yet, when we have died we can no longer benefit from these things.
The Midrash Rabba asks: “What could it possibly matter to our bodies? Why did the Avot endeavor to be buried in Eretz Yisrael?” The Midrash answers its own question in the following manner. “ R’ Shimon ben Lakish said [of Eretz Yisrael], that its dead will be the first to arise in the Revival of the Dead .” Due to its special Kedusha the Reviv al of the Dead will begin in Eretz Yisrael. The Holy Zohar teaches that at the time of Tchiyat Hameitim, the graves in Eretz Yisrael will be the first to open and will be the first to see the Divine Presence of God – Shechina. The dead buried outside of Israel will, on the other hand need go through a process called the Rolling of the Dead until they reach Eretz Yisrael and only then will they arise from their graves and see the Shechina.
The Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero explains this section of the Zohar. The place of burial and the sanctity of the place of burial cause the Shechina to rest upon the Neshama. The greater the sanctity of the place of burial the greater intensity of the Divine Presence. Therefore, all the Tzadikkim desired to be buried in Eretz Yisrael, particularly in the holy cities of Yerushalyim and Chevron.
This recognition of the unique quality of burial in Eretz Yisrael has led to the custom, outside of Eretz Yisrael, to mix soil from Eretz Yisrael with the soil of the burial plot.
If burial in Eretz Yisrael is treasured and recognized for its unique qualities, how much more so is this true of living in Eretz Yisrael.
Yehi-Ratzon, that we should all merit to live in Eretz Yisrael and benefit from its unique and numerous virtues.
Rav Shlomo Sobol has recently joined team in Jerusalem, as the coordinator for Bogrim/Alumni of our program. We wish him much Hatzlacha!
“Grant Truth to Yaakov”
Eitan Weissberg, former Shaliach, New York
A superficial reading of Yaakov’s story leaves us with an erroneous impression of Yaakov Avinu. Throughout Sefer Breishit, Yaakov seems to be someone who somehow manages to always come out on top. Moreover, in order to achieve his goals, Yaakov seemingly does what he has to do and appears to have no problem employing methods which are less than straightforward, to say the least.
We first encounter this attitude when Yaakov ostensibly “takes advantage” of Esav’s hunger in order to obtain the bechorah (birthright). Later, Yaakov even resorts to deception in order to receive his father Yitzchak’s blessing in lieu of Esav. Finally, when Yaakov is in Haran, he himself is swindled by Lavan, but Yaakov does not sit around doing nothing, either. Using “highly irregular” means, Yaakov becomes quite wealthy at his father-in-law’s house.
Yet, despite our initial impression of Yaakov Avinu’s character, the navi Michah testifies to Yaakov’s innate honesty and truthfulness:
“Grant emet (truth) to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham…” (Michah 7:20)
Furthermore, we know that Yaakov is the quintessential exemplar of emet; he serves as a symbol of this midah (trait) for us, his sons. How is this possible?
The Kotzker Rebbe once said,
“Nothing is straighter than an inclined ladder.”
A perfectly upright ladder is useless. Thus, only when a ladder leans against a wall does it actually stand straight.
In this regard, midat ha’emet works in the same way. Emet does not mean walking upright and disconnected from reality. Rather, emet is defined by the reality of a person’s own existence. Yaakov’s emet does not resemble someone else’s emet. Midat ha’emet separates the wheat – i.e., the essence, the kernel of truth – specifically from the chaff – i.e., the false reality which surrounds a person.
Space considerations prevent us from examining all of Yaakov’s actions. However, we will note that in our parsha, Parshat VaYechi, we see that Yosef inherits his father’s midat ha’emet – as we have defined it.
Nechama Leibowitz contrasts Yaakov’s deathbed command to his sons with Yosef’s words to Paroh after Yaakov dies. Yaakov orders his sons to bury him in the cave where his fathers are buried. However, when Yosef approaches Paroh, he is not disconnected from reality. He is aware that the main thing is to obey his father and have Yaakov buried in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, Yosef chooses his words carefully.
Yosef acts as if he is quoting his father and gives the impression that Yaakov had said:
“Behold, I am going to die; in my grave, which I have hewn for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” (Breishit 50:5)
But Yaakov had never actually dug his own grave; he simply wanted to be buried with his parents and grandparents. However, Yosef knows whom he is dealing with. In those days, kings would dig their own graves prior to their deaths, and therefore, Paroh would understand this explanation more than Yaakov’s desire to be removed from Egypt. In addition, Yosef emphasizes the oath he took and his inability to break his word to his late father.
Thus, Yosef learned the true meaning of emet from his father: Midat ha’emet is an adherence to the principles of truth, while accommodating them to a volatile, pragmatic, and dynamic world.
Last week we saw that the children of Israel began to get a little too comfortable in their new, but foreign, surroundings, as it says, Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they took possession therein (le’echoz bah); and they grew and multiplied greatly (47:27). Ya’akov Avinu appreciated this problem and did everything he could to ensure that his descendants would not fall into this trap.
One of the ways Ya’akov tried to accomplish this was by showing his family how he felt about living outside the Land of Israel. In the beginning of the parashah, when Ya’akov realized that his death was drawing near, he summoned his son Yosef and said, If now I have found favor in your eyes, please place your hand under my thigh [as an oath] and do kindness and truth with me; please do not bury me in Egypt (47:29). R. Shimshon Raphael Hirsch addresses two problems in this verse. First, why did Ya’akov insist that Yosef take an oath? Wouldn’t this righteous and devoted son bury his father properly no matter what? Second, what is the meaning of kindness and truth (chessed & emmet)? The following is Hirsch’s answer:
Jacob knew quite certainly that Joseph would bury his father with all possible splendor. But he says: “With all the Chessed do not forget the Emmet.” I would rather not be buried at all than be buried in Egypt. The whole stress is on the request not to be buried in Egypt. We would have thought that carrying out this request did not entail such difficulties that it should have requ ired a ceremonious oath for it. But, as can be deduced from everything, Pharaoh and the Egyptians would by no means have been pleased if Jacob and his family had moved again back out of Egypt, so that the bringing of the body up to Canaan would by no means make a good impression. It would clearly show that Joseph’s family still did not consider themselves naturalized, and that their hearts were still in their old homeland.
But the real motive could lie much deeper. Jacob had still lived seventeen years with his family in Egypt. [Thus, he] could have noticed what a powerful influence the Le’echoz Ba (being gripped by the land) was beginning to have on his descendants, how they already began to see the Jordan in the Nile, and to find their stay in Egypt no Galut. [This was] sufficient motive for him 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!” That 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. (Taken from Isaac Levy’s translation, Judaica Press Ltd. Emphasis added.)
In other words, “Yisrael” Avinu wanted to leave us a very important message before departing this world: Do not become complacent in the lands of exile. Make sure you always remember that galut is unnatural, a punishment. And strive with all your might to return to the Land of your forefathers, if not alive then at least after death.
On this last point, however, I must make one thing clear. Chazal have some very harsh things to say about those who reject God’s Land during their lifetimes and insist on being buried there after they die. In numerous places, they apply to such people a verse in Yirmiyahu (2:7): You made my inheritance into an abomination – during your lifetimes, and you came and defiled My Land – after your deaths (see Yerushalmi, Kil’ayim 9:4; BeReishit Rabbah 96; Zohar, Terumah p. 141). R. Yehudah HaLevi expl ains that this only applies to one who could have lived in Eretz Yisrael but chose not to (Kuzari 2:22). There are other opinions in Chazal and among the poskim, but one thing is clear throughout their writings: It is a tremendous zechut to live, die, and be buried in the Holy Land, as the Yerushalmi (ibid.) states, “One cannot compare a person who returns his soul [lit., “his pearl”] in his mother’s bosom to one who returns it in the bosom of the foreigner.”
Today, when this zechut is within the reach of almost every single Jew, it is perplexing why more do not take advantage of it. What would Ya’akov Avinu say if he were alive?
From Rav Lichtman’s “Eretz Yisrael In The Parashah”, published by Devora Publishing
By now, we’ve become accustomed to hearing about different countries imposing embargoes. In general, embargoed states are sponsors of terror or ruled by regimes which hope to acquire nuclear weapons (such as Iran). However, a look back into history reveals that Israel was also the victim of a weapons embargo - by none other than France!
In the wake of the Six Day War, Charles De Gaulle’s France hoped to placate the oil-producing Arabs and therefore refused to continue providing weapons to the State of Israel. Thus, five missile boats, which had been fully paid for by Israel, were sequestered in the Cherbourg dock.
The year was 1969, and the War of Attrition was at its peak. Israel’s Navy desperately needed those missile boats in order to gain maritime supremacy over the Arab armies and for operational reasons. Somehow, Israel was going to have to get the boats, but it was not going to be a simple process.
In order to obtain exit papers, the boats were “sold” to a Norwegian shipping company. A small clause on the contract indicated that Israel would repurchase the boats three months later.
Since no country would be willing to allow the boats to dock for refueling, Israel ensured that a number of fueling ships were strategically located throughout the Mediterranean.
Yet, the main problem confronting the mission’s planners was how to escape French notice. After all, surely someone would hear the boats’ engines being operated at night. Ever resourceful, the boats’ crews solved the problem by running their engines for several hours at a time during the nights leading up to the escape. Although the locals initially complained to the police about the noisy Israeli boats, eventually everyone got used to the noise and stopped paying attention.
Thus, on December 24, 1969, Christmas Eve, as Cherbourg celebrated noisily, the five missile boats – Sufah, Chanit, Go’ash, Cherev, and Chetz – made their escape. When the vessels finally reached Israeli shores, they were refitted with weapons and missile systems and were immediately sent to fight.