Saturday, March 25, 2023
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: (בראשית מז:כט)

On the pasuk (Bereishis 47:29), “And (Yaakov) called for his son for Yosef … ” the midrash comments, “Why didn’t he call for Reuven or Yehuda; Reuven was the firstborn and Yehuda was the king? Rather, Yaakov called for Yosef, because it was in the hands of Yosef to execute Yaakov’s request to be buried in Mearas HaMachpela. Therefore, “And he called for his son, for Yosef,” and also because Yosef was famous and prestigious (literally “because the hour belonged to Yosef”).

As the Zera Shimshon asks, the wording in the midrash seems repetitious. The midrash opens with the pasuk, “And Yaakov called for his son, for Yosef … ” Why did Yaakov call for Yosef, instead of Reuven or Yehudah? The midrash answers that it was because he had the ability to carry out Yaakov’s request. Seemingly, the midrash should have ended there; since the midrash asked a question and gave an answer. Why, then, did the midrash continue and re-quote the opening pasuk: “Therefore, ‘And he called for his son, for Yosef?’”

Another question the Zera Shimshon has is: Why did the midrash give two reasons; he had the ability to carry out the request and because he was famous and prestigious?

The Zera Shimshon explains that there are two reasons someone is appointed to an important position. One reason is that he can “get the job done.” There is nothing special about him — only that he can do the job better than anyone else. The second reason is in order to honor him. Even if there was someone else also qualified for the position, he still got the position because — for some reason — he deserved the honor.

According to this, the Zera Shimshon explains that the question of the midrash was:

Why did Yaakov choose Yosef to supervise his burial? Since this occurred at the end of Yaakov’s life, to appoint Yosef to take care of his burial seems to indicate that he was honoring him and making him the head of the family. The midrash was bothered as to why Yaakov wanted to make Yosef the head of the family over Reuven — who was still the firstborn — and Yehuda, who was destined to be the king.

The midrash answers that Yaakov didn’t appoint Yosef for this task to honor him, or because there was something wrong with the brothers. Rather, Yaakov chose Yosef for this task, because he was the only brother who had the ability to carry out his desire to be buried in Eretz Yisroel, in Mearas HaMachpela.

On the other hand, if Yaakov would have appointed Reuven or Yehuda, it would imply that Yaakov wanted to honor these two, and he didn’t want the other brothers to have anything to do with his burial.

The midrash re-quotes the pasuk at the end, to prove this point. There seems to be a problem with the wording of this pasuk. Why didn’t it just write, “And Yaakov called for Yosef...” without the words “for his son” preceding “for Yosef?” We already know that Yosef was his son!

The answer is that the pasuk is teaching us that Yaakov didn’t call Yosef to honor him because there was something special about him. Rather, Yaakov called for “his son,” who was just like all of his sons. If there would have been a different son who would have been able to bring him to Eretz Yisroel, then he would have called him. Yosef was chosen only because he was the only one who was able to make sure that Yaakov would not remain in Mitzrayim, and be buried in Mearas HaMachpela.

What still has to be explained is, if the only reason Yaakov chose Yosef to bury him was because he had the ability to carry out the request the pasuk should have written: “He called for his son, Yosef,” in one phrase, which would imply that — in essence — Yosef was “just another son.” However, in truth, it is written in two phrases: (1) He called for his son, (2) for Yosef. What is the reason for this?

The Zera Shimshon explains that the pasuk is split up into two phrases, because Yaakov saw with ruach hakodesh that Yosef was the one who would deal with his burial, with the full agreement of the brothers. The reason they gave up this merit so easily was not to honor Yosef — but to honor Yaakov — like we find that all of Mitzrayim came to pay their final respect to Yaakov. This was — most probably — only because of the high position of Yosef. Therefore, the pasuk is split into two phrases — “to his son, to Yosef” — which implies that the brothers agreed to and were pleased with this arrangement, and this also explains why the midrash adds the second reason “that he was successful and prestigious.”

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