December 24, 2015
In this weeks Sedra, Abarbanel discusses Yaakov making arrangements for his eventual burial. in this he forshadows countess Jews throughout the ages.
” Yaakov and his sons came down to Egypt to dwell there ‘lagur sham’, so he knew that rather than return to Eretz Yisrael immediately after the famine was over, he would die there. Therefore, after 17 years of being in Egypt, feeling his age but before being ill, he obligated Yosef not to bury him there but in Hevron, in Ma’arat Hamachpela .
In this, he taught us and our descendants an important lesson. We should not delay making our wills and testaments until we are ill since then, being frail, in pain and troubled by our disease, we will not have the clarity and wisdom to make logical and intelligent arrangements.
Why were he, Yosef and countless Jews throughout the generations so determined to be buried in Eretz Yisrael, that they obligated others to undertake the expense and trouble to bury them there?
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi taught that since Eretz Yisrael is Eretz Hachayim, they wished thereby to fulfill “I will walk before Hashrem in the land of the living”, even if they were unable to do so before their deaths.
However, Rabbi Yochanan questioned this on the basis that not having gone and lived there in kedusha while alive, they now wished to contaminate the Holy Land with the tummah of their dead bodies.
The 2 sages were referring to two different types of people. The first is referring to those who lived lives of sanctity and to whom the materialism and pleasures of life were merely vanities while they busied themselves with learning and keeping Torah. Such people indeed saw walking before Hashem as their sole purpose and therefore they truly yearned for the holiness of Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Yochan was referring to people who concentrated on living lives of dissipation and pleasure with no regard for the things of the spirit and heaven. Their burial in the Holy Land really brought tummat met to that sanctity.
Abarbanel noticed how careful Yaakov was to enunciate the burial spot; “to lie with my fathers and bury me in their burying place” (Ber. 47 30).
This was to forestall any arguments by the people of Hevron that they were opposed to people having a private burial ground there or that the sale had been made long ago and they were not obligated by it.
However, that sale had been fuly paid for, publicly witnessed and even acted upon later by the burial of Avraham and later of Rivka, Yitzchak and Leah. In addition, the descendants of Ishmael, although being also from Avraham, could not object since Yitzchak and not their ancestor was buried there nor could the children of Eisav since Yaakov had already buried Leah there.
He sought to obligate Yosef rather than any of the other sons not because he was the Viceroy of Egypt and therefore he alone had the power to do so (Rashi), nor because Yosef had brought Yaakov down from Canaan and was the main purpose of his coming to Egypt so that it was only right that he have responsibility for his burial in Canaan (Midrash).
According to Abarbanl, Yaakov saw with Ruach Hakodesh that Yosef would be buried in Egypt and his bones taken out for burial in Eretz Yisrael only after the Exodus. Therefore, being frightened that Yosef would think it was correct to leave Yaakov’s bones there as well until then, he wanted to obligate him to do so immediately after Yaakov’s death. The obligation of Yosef is grounded by Yaakov in the two terms ‘chesed ve emet’; as a powerful viceroy he is asked to do Yaakov only a chesed but as a son he is required to meet the request as an act of emet to a father.
[ Author’s note : many people think that “chesed shel emet” means burial. But burying is not chesed. What else are you going to do? Leave corpses lying around?
Chesed shel emet (see the k’tav sofer) is the way one buries a person, with dignity and respect, and not cremating ones relatives as if one were burning rubbish]