• The parsha begins by stating that Yaacov, our forefather, lived in Egypt for 17 years. The sages teach us that during those years, he truly was content and that is why it states ‘he lived’. Another explanation why for ‘he lived’, when in actuality, he is soon to leave this world, is to emphasize the accomplishments he had in life. The Torah’s style is such (Chayeh Sarah the life of Sarah) and we should learn a lesson. This point is underlined more by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the father of Kabalah who indicated in the Zohar, when he was on his deathbed, to celebrate his death because you’re actually celebrating life. Many communities have lavish yartzeit dinners with a three-course meal and vodka (although scotch is preferred by some). The more one celebrates, the more one gives honor to the soul. (The celebration should be done properly besides the food the emphasis; there should be more Torah discussions, which elevates the soul).
• Yaacov makes Yosef swear to burry him in Israel where his fathers were buried, and not Egypt. He explained that the reason I didn’t bury your mother in the Mearat Hamachpela (where his fathers and mothers are buried) is because one day she will be needed to pray for the children of Israel, who will come to her, passing her burial spot on the way, and she will save them.
• Yaacov is the first human to have a progressive illness that leads to death. People, up until Yaacov, would unexpectedly collapse and perish. There are plusses and minuses to the current system. My father z’l, would call the deceased lucky when he discovered someone passed away unexpectedly. He would say ‘he didn’t have to suffer’.
• I’d like to ask the reader a question. Are You the Same Person You Were Five Years Ago? My wife has always said that I still have scars from my days when I was single. I got married late and I had a difficult time finding the right one. BARUCH HASHEM! My wife says that I’m very cynical. I tried to explain to her that I’ve always been cynical; it’s me! In this week’s parsha we find the SAME O’L YOSEF. Yaacov wanted his son Yosef to swear that he would take his remains to Israel. Those who are buried there are privileged to be resurrected first when the MASHIACH will come. Those buried outside Israel will have to go through a very painful and delayed process of rolling underground towards the holy land. For this reason, burial plots today are prime real estate in Israel.
By Yosef swearing, it reaffirmed and reassured Yaacov’s belief that Yosef remained a tzaddik even though he went through the trials and tribulations of being captured as a slave as well as being a leader (involved in politics) of a non-Jewish nation. Both are major obstacles. One (being captured) was depressing and the other had the pitfalls of tremendous desire. Nevertheless, Yosef remained Yosef. Yaacov noticed a very important consistency in his attitude. Only a truly righteous individual can weather any storm and not say ” ahh what does G-d want from me? No matter how good I am I’m still getting the short end of the stick!” The attitude that Yosef had was that I am a servant of G-d and this is the situation G-d wants me to be in now; nothing should get me down”. This a very difficult test for all of us. However, this is the optimal attitude that G-d wants from us and one that we should all have.
The Divrai Chaim, one of the Chasidic greats of many years ago, once said that he was jealous of Rabbi Hershel, who was one of the Torah Giants of his generation. Doing kindness is of major importance in our religion and the Torah Greats would be front and center in accomplishing this MITZVA. “I am jealous because when an opportunity to give charity comes and Rabbi Hershel doesn’t have the funds, he does not feel bad in saying I don’t have; I do. I feel bad. He has the proper, but most difficult, attitude of saying “this is the situation G-d wants me to be in today”; NO FUNDS, CAN’T GIVE. CAN’T DO A KINDNESS. He felt no pain because this is what G-d wants. It was for this reason that the Divrai Chaim was jealous. One has to be consistent in his attitude towards any situation that comes his way, because at the end of the day, we have to weather all storms and say to ourselves that this is the situation G-d wants me to be in!!
• Yaacov tells Yosef “your two sons will be added to the list of the tribes”. In other words, Yosef gets a double portion, which is what all first-borns get. The first-born status was taken away from Reuben and transferred to Yosef, who actually was the first-born to Yaacov from a different mother (Rachel).
• Yaacov crosses his arms as he is giving the bracha to Yosef’s sons. His right hand crosses over to Efraim, the younger son, and on Menashe, the eldest, he placed his weaker hand, his left hand.
• Yosef alarmingly informed his father that his right hand is not on the first born, fearing more rift and jealousy among the offspring. Yaacov reiterated “I know, he will also be great”. Apparently, Yaacov saw through Divine powers that Yehoshuah will come out of Efraim. Therefore, Efraim needed an extra boost, an extra “jolt”, of Bracha.
• Yaacov gave the city of Shechem to Yosef as an inheritance. Yosef received a double portion because he was now the first born ever since the status was taken away from Reuben.
• Yaacov wished to reveal to his sons the time of the arrival of the Moshiach. However, G-d had a different plan. The redemption had to remain concealed because G-d was afraid that future generations would despair during their exile if they knew that the destined time was a long way off. G-d therefore made the Divine prophesy departs temporarily from Yaacov. However, Yaacov not knowing this, was afraid that the prophesy departed from him because one of his sons were unworthy of the Divine blessing. He therefore asked his sons, ” How can I know if your hearts are fully with G-d?” They unanimously responded “SHEMA YISRAEL HASHEM ELOKANU HASHEM ECHAD” -“Hear Yisrael (Yaacov), Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one”. Yaacov bowed in thanks to G-d and answered quietly “BARUCH SHEM KEVOD MALCHUTO LEOLAM VAED” -“Blessed be his name whose kingdom is forever”.
• Yaacov then proceeded to give each one of his twelve sons a bracha. They were not ordinary brachots; they were composed with divine assistance.
• For acting impulsively and moving the main bed of Yaacov to his mother’s tent, Reuben lost the first-born status. This occurred after the death of Rachel, Yaacov’s favorite wife. For after Rachel died, he proceeded to put the bed in the tent of one of the other wives. Reuben wanted to protect the honor of his mother. Reuben was out of line by trying to direct his father and instruct him where to sleep.
• Levi received the Kehuna, while Yehuda received the kingdom.
• Yaacov continues to bless his sons.
• A question arises – why wasn’t Yosef chosen to be the leader of the Israelites? Why did it instead come from Yehuda? Yosef proved he could lead as he was the viceroy of a superpower nation. However, Yaacov was concerned that as noble as Yosef was, he would provoke jealousy. (Abarbanel)
• Yaacov again instructs his children that he wants to be buried with his fathers in the Mearat Hamachpelah in Chevron, Israel.
• Both Yaacov and Yosef anticipated the problem that Pharaoh might not let them proceed to take Yaacov’s body to Israel. Yaacov was a good- luck charm for the Egyptians. The famine stopped immediately after he arrived. This is a pattern in history, wherever the Jews are, there is blessing. Still, the gentiles hate us and want to see us suffer. They want us to suffer and stay. When my wife left Bukhara, the natives (Uzbeks) would often say to her “we need to have ten Jews here or there is no good luck for us” (Jews traveled in groups of ten- a minyan). “While you are here, the country flourishes” the Uzbeks continued.
Yosef had a protective plan. Anyone who was royal had to know 70 languages; Yosef knew them. However, Pharaoh did not know Hebrew. Yosef used this as leverage and told Pharaoh that he would not divulge his secret if he would let Yosef bury Yaacov.
• Yosef reassures his brothers that he has no ill feelings toward them. They were concerned that after their father’s death he might retaliate for selling him.
After many years, Yosef passes on. Before his death, he instructs his brothers that when the time comes, he would also like to be buried in Israel.
Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon