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Parshas Beshalach - Vol. 11, Issue 16
Compiled by Oizer Alport
When Yaakov realized that the time of his death was near, he became concerned that he would be buried in Egypt and not in his family's burial plot in Me'aras HaMachpeilah. He called in his son Yosef, who wielded power in Egypt, and asked him to ensure that he would be buried with his forefathers in Chevron in the land of Israel. Yosef responded, "I will do as you have said."
The simple understanding of Yosef's words is that he acceded to Yaakov's request and would do his utmost to arrange for Yaakov to be buried in Eretz Yisroel. However, the Daas Z'keinim interprets Yosef's response that "I will do as you have said" to mean that "just as you instructed me that you want to be buried in the land of Israel, so too will I command my brothers to take my body out of Egypt and bury me there," which he in fact did at the end of Parshas Vayechi (Bereishis 50:24-25) in promising his brothers that Hashem would bring them out of Egypt and into the land of Israel, and adjuring them to take his bones with them when they leave.
Rav Moshe Wolfson points out that it is difficult to understand how Yosef could give such a seemingly selfish and disrespectful answer to Yaakov, in which he ignored his father's request and gave an apparently unrelated reply which showed that he was more concerned about his own needs than those of his dying father. Further, if Yosef wanted to emulate Yaakov, it would seem appropriate for him to order his sons to bury him in Israel, just as Yaakov instructed his son Yosef to do; why did Yosef give this command to his brothers and not to Ephraim and Menashe, who had a greater responsibility to him than did his brothers? Moreover, Rashi writes in this week's parsha that Yosef not only required his brothers to transport his body for burial in Eretz Yisroel, but also to command their children to bury them there as well. Why did Yosef feel that it was necessary to obligate his brothers to take measures to arrange that they would be buried in the land of Israel?
Rav Wolfson suggests that the key to understanding Yosef's actions lies in the fact that when he discussed the issue with his brothers, he specifically asked them to take his bones out of Egypt (Bereishis 50:25), which is difficult to understand. Surely the body of the righteous Yosef did not decay and remained fully intact after his death, so why did he stress that he was concerned about his bones more than the rest of his body?
The Gemora in Niddah (31a) teaches that there are three partners in the creation of a person: Hashem, his father, and his mother. The Gemora delineates the contributions made by each of the partners in the formation of the baby, with Hashem responsible for giving the neshama (soul), the father supplying the bones, and the mother donating the skin. In light of this, Rav Wolfson explains that because a person receives his bones from his father, they are therefore permeated with his father's imprint, and in this sense Chazal (Eiruvin 70b) describe a son as a continuation of his father.
For this reason, when Yosef heard that Yaakov was concerned about the possibility of being buried in Egypt, in his tremendous dedication to his father he responded that not only would he make sure that Yaakov wasn't buried in Egypt, but he would fulfill his father's will b'hiddur (in an enhanced manner) by taking the additional step of ensuring that he would also be buried in Eretz Yisroel, not due to selfish motivations, but because he recognized that his bones were an extension of his father, and if they were interred in Egypt, part of Yaakov would be buried there as well. Yosef alluded to this intention when he stressed that his brothers should bring his bones out of Egypt and bury them in the land of Israel, as he wasn't focused on the rest of his body, but solely on the part of Yaakov that was manifested in his bones.
With this understanding, it is clear that Yosef's response to Yaakov was in no way disrespectful, and to the contrary, his desire to go above and beyond what was requested of him demonstrated his tremendous respect for and devotion to his father. It is also understandable that Yosef didn't command his own sons to ensure that he was buried in Eretz Yisroel, but rather his brothers. If he was motivated by a concern for his own well-being, it would have been appropriate to instruct his sons, as they have a mitzvah to fulfill his request. However, Yosef's actions emanated from a desire to respect his father, and he recognized that his brothers had a greater level of obligation to honor their father than did Yosef's sons to carry out the wishes of their grandfather.
This also explains why Yosef insisted not only that his brothers swear that they would make sure that he was buried in the land of Israel, but that their bodies would be transported there as well. Given Yosef's concern about a part of Yaakov being buried in Egypt if his bones remained there, it would be insufficient for him to be taken out to be buried in Israel if his brothers' bodies remained behind, as their bones contained the same spark of Yaakov that Yosef's did. In order to fully and completely honor Yaakov's request to be buried in Eretz Yisroel, Yosef had to make sure that no portion of him was left behind in Egypt, which left him no choice but to insist that he together with all of his brothers be taken out of Egypt as well.
Rashi writes that the clarity of the Divine revelation at the Red Sea was so great that even the lowest maidservants reached tremendous levels in seeing Hashem, levels which even many of the greatest prophets never merited reaching. Why does Rashi specifically refer to the maidservants, and where is it at all hinted to that the maidservants reached such levels?
The Vilna Gaon notes that the Mishnah in Bikkurim (1:4) rules that a convert must bring bikkurim (first-fruits) to the Beis HaMikdash, but he does not read the verses (Devorim 26:5-10) that other Jews do when bringing them. These verses refer to the enslavement of "avoseinu" - our ancestors - something which isn't true of the convert's forbearers.
Our verse may be split in two, with the first half referring to "my G-d" and the second half discussing "the G-d of my father." Why does the Torah split the praises in two, and what is the significance of the switch from "my G-d" to "the G-d of my father?"
The Vilna Gaon explains that the Jewish people said the latter praise and were therefore able to refer to the G-d of their ancestors, as per the opinion of the Mishnah in Bikkurim. The first phrase, which emphasizes the personal G-d of the speaker, must therefore have been said by the maidservants who were unable to refer to their forefathers. The praise said by the maidservants uses the expression "zeh Keili" (this is my G-d). The word "zeh" connotes a physical presence that one is able to point to. Rashi therefore concluded that the maidservants saw Hashem so clearly that they were able to point to Him, a level which even many of the prophets didn't reach.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Mishnah in Avos (5:6) teaches that our ancestors tested Hashem ten times on their way to the Israel, six of which are mentioned in Parshas Beshalach. How many of them can you identify?
2) Which is the last verse in the Shiras HaYam? (Masechta Sofrim 12:11, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Rambam Hilchos Sefer Torah end of Chapter 8, Hagahos Rav Tzvi Hirsh Berlin Gittin 90a)
3) The Gemora in Chullin (9a) praises Moshe and Aharon for their humble declaration (16:8) ונחנו מה - and what are we - and teaches that it was even greater than Avrohom's proclamation (Bereishis 18:27) I am but dust and ash. In what way did the statement of Moshe and Aharon demonstrate greater humility than that of Avrohom? (Imrei Da'as, Peninei Kedem)
4) The Gemora in Yoma (75a) teaches that with the exception of 5 tastes, the Manna tasted like whatever one wanted it to taste like. Did the person eating it need to state the taste that he desired, or was it sufficient merely to think it? (Shemos Rabbah 25:3, Moshav Z'keinim Bamidbar 11:8) 5) How were the Jews able to fulfill the mitzvah of giving tzedakah in the wilderness when there were no poor and needy Jews, as all of them received food and drink on a daily basis? (Rabbeinu Bechaye 16:21, Chiddushei HaRim, Ayeles HaShachar)
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