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Parsha Mitzvot: Vayechi: The Chesed of Burying the Dead

“Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, please place your hand under my thigh and do kindness and truth with me; please do not bury me in Egypt. For I will lie down with my fathers and you shall transport me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb.” (Genesis 47: 29-30) “The kindness shown to the dead is the ‘kindness of truth’ in that the beneficiary will never be able to return the favor.” (Rashi)

I guess that the Chesed shel Emet applied only to Joseph and not his brothers: “Then he instructed them and said, “I shall be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite.” (49:29) Jacob does not again mention Chesed shel Emet. Why?

Perhaps for Joseph’s brothers, burying Jacob in Israel would not be considered something for which they will never receive a favor in return. Jacob does not mention the Cave of Machpeilah to Joseph, only to the brothers. Their mother, Leah was already buried there. Rachel, Joseph’s mother was not. “There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebecca his wife; and there I buried Leah.” (Verse 31) Eight of Joseph’s brothers had already received a favor from Jacob.

Jacob’s brothers received an additional favor: Their descendants would leave Egypt and enter Israel as their children. Joseph’s children left Egypt and entered Israel as Jacob’s children; “And now, your two sons who were born to you in Egypt before my coming to you in Egypt shall be mine. Ephraim and Menasseh shall be like Reuben and Simeon.” (48:5)

When Joseph requested, “When God will indeed remember you, then you must bring my bones up out of here.” (50:25) He doesn’t mention “Chesed shel Emet,” because bringing Joseph up out of Egypt would not be a Chesed, but an old obligation on those who sold him into slavery in Egypt! (Mechilta, Beshalach; Shemot Rabbah 20:18)

“And Moshe took Joseph’s bones with him.” (Exodus 13:19) Moshe was of the tribe of Levi, one of the two main instigators of Joseph’s sale. Moses was paying his ancestor’s obligation.

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