This week’s Parsha begins with a summary of the end of Jacob’s life, and then continues with a final request from Jacob - not to be buried in Egypt.
וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמוּת וַיִּקְרָא לִבְנוֹ לְיוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ שִׂים נָא יָדְךָ תַּחַת יְרֵכִי וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל נָא תִקְבְּרֵנִי בְּמִצְרָיִם:
When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have now found favour in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with loving-kindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt.
According to Kabballah, one of then Ten Sephirot is חסד - loving kindness. The trait of חסד is characterised as a continuous, never ending flow. It is for this reason, that the word חסד is related to the word אשד , which means overflow, or “devoting oneself entirely.
אמת - truth, can be understood as the counter-weight of חסד .Truth is absolute and does not change - it can always be found and is a constant. When there is an abundance of חסד , it is easy to lose sight of what is essential, the truth - אמת. Therefore, חסד and אמת make the perfect couple.
It is for this reason, the Jacob specified to Joseph that he should
וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת
deal with me with loving-kindness and truth
Jacob realised that the Joseph would want to bury him in a grand ceremony, with finery and splendour - typical of the overflowing trait of חסד. However, Jacob did not want Joseph to lose sight of אמת- the truth. Jacob did not desire a grand ceremony in Egypt (חֶסֶד), he wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel (אמת). (Interestingly enough, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel is known as עיר האמת - the City of Truth).
This request required a solemn oath as Pharaoh and the Egyptians would not have been happy, had Jacob and his family emigrated from Egypt. Even so, the transfer and burial of Jacob’s remains from Egypt to the Land of Israel gave the impression that Joseph’s family did not consider themselves Egyptians, and were still attached to their last land of residence.
This is in fact the very reason that Jacob wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel! As I mentioned in last week’s Dvar Torah, the Israelites began to feel an attachment to Egypt and regard it as “their land”. They had forgotten that their stay in Egypt was temporary, an exile - and not their homeland.
Jacob’s request to be buried in Israel, was almost a form of rebuke and a warning to his descendants. He was saying that although they desired to live in Egypt, he didn’t even want to be buried there! For this reason too, Jacob’s request is recorded in the Torah using the name Israel rather than Jacob. The name Israel, has the connotation of being the bearer of national destiny and the name Jacob, is a more private, personal name.
In the next chapter, Jacob talks about the Land of Israel and uses the expression
an everlasting inheritance.
The commitment and responsibility that Jacob’s descendants began to feel towards Egypt, Jacob still felt towards the Land of Israel - even though he was not residing there.
R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch comments on this phrase and says
Although for centuries now the Land has not been in our possession, it is our everlasting inheritance. We are attached to it, it holds us, even though it is not under our control.
Although much has changed politically since R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote his commentary on Parshat Vayechi, his message is sill relevant.
Although the State of Israel has been established and there is a Jewish government for the first time since the Destruction of the Second Temple - many of us are still bound and attached to our host countries in the Diaspora.
Today, our eternal homeland, our everlasting inheritance is in Jewish hands. We have the opportunity to make Aliyah, to live in the country with a capital that is the ‘City of Truth’. Although we do have a connection to our host countries in the Diaspora -we must remember that we have much stronger connection to the Land of Israel. We are bound to her. She is our eternal inheritance!
Like Vshavubanim.tumblr.com said earlier this week
We have this land, and we have it to live in. It’s not okay to say from America, Australia, England, that it is our Land and that it belongs to us - we just don’t live there. How strong are these convictions if we aren’t living in the Land? How can we expect the rest of the world to see Israel as our Land, if we are not here, building our lives in this country, for this country? The best way, the only way to show the world that this is our country, and that there is nothing that any one can do to take it away from us, is through Yishuv Ha’aretz - Settling the Land.
We have our country, and we have the love for our country. Now we have to prove it - and the only way to do that is for us, Am Yisrael, to come home.
This Dvar Torah is almost like a continuation or a Part 2 of my Dvar Torah from Parshat Vayeshev. The link is below, so you can read it, if you haven’t already.
In this week’s Parsha, 70 souls from the Jacob’s house go down to Egypt in what is considered the beginning of the first exile.This exile is foretold to Abraham, earlier in the Book of Genesis.
וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה:
And He said to Abram, “You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years
The word used to describe Abraham’s descendants in exile is גר - “stranger” from the root ג.ו.ר . This root denotes temporary sojourning and is appropriately the base for the Hebrew word, stranger.
The exile in Egypt was supposed to be hard and uncomfortable. Abraham’s descendants were not to assimilate into Egyptian society, rather they would constantly have the stigma of being a Hebrew, they would constantly be different, be strangers. Egypt was not to be their home forever, rather, a stop-off on the way to the Land of Israel. Just as Egypt was a temporary living space, this exile, was also temporary.
This is seen even in the prophecy in Genesis, as the chapter continues
בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא כָּרַת יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת אַבְרָם בְּרִית לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ נָתַתִּי אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת
. On that day, the Lord formed a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your seed I have given this land,
As seen above, immediately after being told of his descendant’s exile and status as “strangers” in Egypt - a temporary living space; Abraham is told that his descendants will be given a land which will be theirs eternally, permanently.
In this weeks Parsha, Joseph’s brothers approach Pharaoh and tell him
. וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה לָגוּר בָּאָרֶץ בָּאנוּ
And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land,
Here, the brothers use the same root ג.ו.ר, denoting sojourning, temporary living. The brothers did not intend to remain in Egypt forever, and were content to remain “strangers” in Egypt whilst living there temporarily. In response to the brothers’ request, they were given the Land of Goshen, a fertile, comfortable area where they would be able to shepherd easily.
Later on in the chapter, the narrative says
. וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ וַיִּפְרוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד
And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, and they acquired property in it, and they were prolific and multiplied greatly.
Two different verbs are used here י.ש.ב- denoting permanent living and א.ח.ז which also means settling and has a connotation of being tied to the land.
This verse shows us, that the group of 70 that came down to Egypt changed their intention of temporarily living there, and grew comfortable- wanting to live there permanently. Furthermore, they knew the Redemption would not be during their lifetimes, so they had no qualms about putting down their roots in Egypt.
Moreover, the second verb in the verse וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ with the root א.ח.ז shows the connection that the Israelites had to the Land of Egypt. They felt like they were held to the land and bound to it - a feeling that should only be felt towards the Land of Israel which is our אחזה (contextually translated as portion, but has the same meaning as its root - being ‘bound’ to the land). As the Israelites settled in the Land of Goshen, they permanently endangered themselves. They set the foundation of the danger that their descendants would betray their heritage and forget their true ancestry.
Today, many of us in the Diaspora have seem to forgotten that our exile is only temporary.
Rather, we have placed down roots and have settled in our host countries, easily assimilating.
Rather than being strangers and only living in the Diaspora temporarily, we have become comfortable, made these places our permanent homes and become “bound” to these foreign lands.
In the 21st century we not only still have the commandment and the responsibility to make Aliyah, but we have the opportunity and privilege to do so. Today, when the Land of Israel is in Jewish Hands after 2000 years of exile, we should be enthusiastic to become Israeli citizens, live permanently in our eternal homeland, be “bound to it” and contribute to our diverse society.
In this week’s Parsha, Joseph’s brothers leave the famine stricken Land of Canaan, in order to travel to Egypt to buy food.
Leaving the Land of Israel is serious, and not an issue to be taken lightly.
In fact, the Sages give 3 situations where it is permissible to leave the Land of Israel.
1. In order to learn Torah if one finds that he can learn better outside of Israel.
2.In order to find a suitable partner to marry.
3. In order to make a living and support one’s family.
Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 5:9)
Obviously, the brother’s temporary ירידה - (lit. going down. con. leaving the Land of Israel) is justified and fits into the third category - supporting one’s family.
When Joseph asked his brothers, from where they had come
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מֵאַיִן בָּאתֶם
And he said to them, “Where do you come from?”
the brothers responded strangely. Not only did they say from where they came, they also included the reason for their travelling.
מֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִשְׁבָּר אֹכֶל:
"From the land of Canaan to purchase food."
Rabbi Zalman Sortozkin explains Joseph’s brothers responded in this manner as they were used to apologising whenever they left the Land of Israel. They also apologised this time before a “non-Jewish minister”, even though it is not a sin for a non-Jew to leave Israel. The second half of the brothers’ answer was an apology and an explanation as to why they left the Land of Israel (which in their case, was permissible).
The four words of the brothers’ answer teach us not only the severity of leaving the Land of Israel, but the privilege and the responsibility of living in the Land of Israel. Today, we have the opportunity and the ability to make Aliyah and live in Israel - and we should! Today, we don’t have reasons NOT to live in Israel.
For the first time in 2000 years, since the destruction of the Temple and the Roman exile, Israel is once again the centre of Torah learning. There are thousands of Batei Midrash, Shules, Yeshivot and Midrashot in Israel waiting for us to join and learn Torah.
According to recent Aliyah rates, Israel is soon going to hold the majority of Jews in the world. Are there any better places to find a Shidduch?
And finally, Israel has one of the largest and most developed economies in the world.This year, the unemployment rate in Israel has been the lowest it has been since the 80’s. Are there any better places to work? Any other places that will automatically give you Shabbat and Chagim as days off?
It’s time for all of us in the Diaspora to make Aliyah, join the In-gathering of the Exiles and prepare for the Redemption in our eternal homeland, the Holy Land of Israel.
וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן:
Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.
The first verse of this week’s Parsha uses two words to denote living arrangements - וַיֵּשֶׁב - and he dwelt, and מְגוּרֵי - sojournings.
וַיֵּשֶׁב has connotations of a permanent living space, whilstמְגוּרֵי refers to a temporary living arrangement.
After returning from Laban’s house, Jacob planned to make the Land of Canaan his permanent home. In fact, after his return from Charan, Jacob only left Canaan to go to Egypt - in order to reunite with his missing son. Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years, while his son, Joseph was Viceroy, and his body was returned to Canaan - his real home, for burial.
In contrast to Jacob are his father and grandfather - Abraham and Isaac. Although both lived in the Land of Canaan, it was never their permanent home.
Today, the Hebrew word for settlements in Judea and Samaria is ההתנחלויות. Contrary to popular belief, not all these settlements were built post-1967, when Israel reclaimed Judea and Samaria. Many of these neighbourhoods and cities, were actually built pre-1948, and are given the status of a Yishuv - ישוב (from the same root of וַיֵּשֶׁב). Kalia, Beit HaAraba, Kfar Darom, Hebron and Gush Etzion are just a few examples of communities established before the creation of the State of Israel.
Like the title they are given (“Yishuv”, which indicates an element of permanence), these communities are permanent Jewish communities. They should never be destroyed, their citizens should never be relocated or expelled.
As mentioned earlier, the Hebrew world for settlements is ההתנחלויות. This word comes from the root, נ.ח. ל. This root means inheriting, passing through the generations. In fact, the Torah uses this root to describe the giving of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.
לָתֵת אֶת הָאָרֶץ בְּנַחֲלָה בְּגוֹרָל לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
to give the Land as an inheritance through lot to the children of Israel,
Just like the Land of Israel, which includes Judea and Samaria, is the permanent homeland for the Jewish people; the settlements built by Jews in Judea and Samaria should also be permanent homes. We should not be afraid to live permanently, or build permanent homes in our own country, in our permanent, national homeland.
As Benjamin Netanyahu said to Tamar Fogel earlier this year
הם רוצחים ואנחנו בונים
They murder, and we build
I read in the paper this morning that now that ‘Palestine’ has joined UNESCO, they’ll make sure to care for historical sites such as Joseph’s Tomb.
Puh-lease. Who are they kidding? The Palestinians are the ones destroying the site and ensuring that the Jews’ who visit it are in mortal danger.