by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Vayechi(69)This week's sedra, the last in the Book of Genesis, concludes the history of the Forefathers. In includes the last will and testament, the blessings, which Jacob bestowed upon his sons. These are both blessings and prophecies for the distant future, the End of Days. In the beginning of the sedra, Jacob requests from his powerful son, Joseph, to see to it that after his death he gets returned to Eretz Yisrael and buried in the family burial plot, Me'aras Hamachpelah.
And the days of Jacob neared his [time of] death. And he called to his son, Joseph, and said to him: 'Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, please, put your hand under my thigh and do kindness and truth with me, please, do not bury me in Egypt.
Kindness and truth: Rashi: Kindness done for the dead is kindness of truth, because one does not look forward to being paid back (for the kindness).
What would you ask on Rashi's comment?
What is bothering him to have him make this comment?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The words 'kindness and truth' are in a sense contradictory - an oxymoron phrase. Truth is what is fitting and just under the circumstances; kindness on the other hand, is beyond justice, beyond truth; something good, which is done even if, in truth, it is not merited. So Rashi wants to understand how these incompatible concepts can be lumped together.
How does his comment deal with difficulty?
An Answer: Rashi changes "Kindness and Truth" to "Kindness of truth" - where 'truth' defines 'kindness' and they are two separate concepts. So now there is no contradiction.
But see verse 48:22 further on and Rashi's comment on it and you should have another question.
ANOTHER QUESTION ON RASHI
Another Question: There Rashi says that Jacob gave Joseph the city of Shechem as a burial place for Joseph, as reward for Joseph's troubling himself to bury Jacob in Eretz Yisrael. So we see that Joseph's kindness was rewarded! And Rashi had said (in our verse) that this was to be a 'kindness of truth'- done for no ulterior motive.
Can you think of answer to this apparent contradiction?
An Answer: Some commentaries explain that, in fact, when Jacob asked Joseph to bury him in Eretz Yisrael, neither Jacob nor Joseph had thought about getting paid for this kindness. Only later did Jacob think of giving Joseph the city of Shechem; only after Joseph had sworn he would do it without expecting any reward. And furthermore, the time of paying Joseph (actually his offspring) the reward of the city of Shechem will be many years after Jacob has died, so there would be no way for Jacob to see to it that it was, in fact, given to Joseph.
A DEEPER LOOK AND ANOTHER QUESTION
But if we look back to parashas Chayei Sarah we discover another difficulty. See verse 24:49.
What would you ask?
Another question: In that verse it says that when Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, asked Laban and Besueil, to allow Rebecca to go to Eretz Yisrael to marry Isaac, he said: "And now, if you intend to do kindness and truth with my master tell me; and if not, tell me, and I will return to the right or to the left."
So we see that Eliezer also used the words "kindness and truth" - but here he was asking living people and not someone on his deathbed. So why did he use these words if they mean, as Rashi says, "kindness done to the dead"?
Can you answer this difficulty?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: Rashi's deeper message is that the ultimate meaning of the words "kindness and truth" is kindness done without the expectation to receive reward for the kindness done. The clearest case of this is kindness done for those who will soon die. In such cases it is clear that reward is not expected and even if it is expected, it cannot be guaranteed since the giver will be dead.
What this means is that there may certainly be other cases of 'kindness and truth', which, are not promises made by people near death; rather it means that the receiver is promising to do the kindness with no expectation of reward. And this is 'kindness and truth' that Eliezer was asking of Laban and Besueil - let me take Rebecca, and I am not promising anything in return.
In fact, several verses later, 24:53 it says that Eliezer did give them gifts as a sign of gratitude. But again, their consent to allow Rebecca to go, was not conditioned on these gifts.
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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