Vayechi 5784: Yosef’s Enduring Legacy

This week’s parsha, Parshas Vayechi, is the final one in the book of Bereishis.  After a tumultuous, albeit successful, life – losing his mother as a young boy of 8 or 9 years old, being hated and rejected by his brothers, being sold by them at the age of seventeen, bought by Potiphar, Chief Executioner of Egypt, surviving the first blood libel in history by Eishes Potiphar, spending twelve years in prison, and ultimately becoming viceroy at age thirty and ruling until his death at 110 years – Yosef ha’tzadik, Yosef the righteous (Yoma 35a), dies.

The closing pasukim of sefer Bereishis tell us of the final moments, and words, of righteous Yosef: וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶלאֶחָיו, אָנֹכִי מֵת; וֵאלֹקֹים פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם, וְהֶעֱלָה אֶתְכֶם מִןהָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, אֶלהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹבAnd Yosef said to his brothers: I am going to die; G-d will surely remember you and take you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yakov; וַיַּשְׁבַּע יוֹסֵף, אֶתבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹרפָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אלֹקֹים אֶתְכֶם, וְהַעֲלִתֶם אֶתעַצְמֹתַי מִזֶּהAnd Yosef adjured the children of Israel, saying: G-d will surely remember you, and you shall take up my bones out of here; וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף, בֶּןמֵאָה וָעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים; וַיַּחַנְטוּ אֹתוֹ, וַיִּישֶׂם בָּאָרוֹן בְּמִצְרָיִם – And Yosef died at the age of one hundred ten years, and they embalmed him and he was placed into the coffin in Egypt (Bereishis 50:24-26).

On his deathbed, Yosef imparted two final messages to the Bnei Yisrael: (I) geula – redemption – would surely come as G-d will surely remember them and (II) his place – and their place (and our place!) – is not in foreign lands, but in the land of our Avos and Imahos, the land of HKB”H (Devarim 11:12), the land of Eretz Yisrael.

Yosef’s enduring legacy is the belief in redemption and the love for, and belief in, Eretz Yisrael.  This dual legacy – which is really one, for when redemption comes, we will all be worthy to merit a redeemed and rebuilt Tzion v’Yerushalayim – is made even greater by the fact that Yosef did not merit geula during his difficult lifetime, nor did he merit to live, die or be buried (in a timely fashion) in Eretz Yisrael.  Hence, even though all the logical facts of his life proved otherwise, exacerbated by the fact that HKB”H never directly spoke to Yosef, his emunah in geula and E”Y never diminished or wavered.

It is easy to believe when life is good, uncomplicated and everything makes sense.  Yosef’s stalwart emunah reminds us that his tzidkus was so much greater because he always believed, even when – especially when – life did not necessarily make sense.

If there is a lesson from the legacy of Yosef that we can take for our day and our time, this difficult eis milchama and eis tzarah l’Yaakov, it is his powerful and unwavering faith in redemption and in the eternity of our Land – even when life does not make sense.  As of this writing (on Monday, 12/25/23), eighteen soldiers fell in battle in Gaza since Friday, Erev Shabbos, HYD, Hashem yerachem aleinu.  Early Monday the IDF cleared for publication:  Master Sergeant (res.) Nitai Meisels, 30, from Rehovot, who served in the 14th Brigade of the Armored Corps, who fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip and Sergeant Rani Tamir, 20, from Ganei Am, who served in the 50th Battalion of the Nahal Brigade, who fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip.

Late Monday, The Beit El Council announced that its resident Elisha Yehonatan Lober HY”D, son of Hagay and Tehiya Lober, fell in battle in Gaza.  “Our hearts are with the dear Lober family upon learning of the bitter news. The council’s staff stands by the family and will assist in all possible ways,” the council said.  Lober is a cousin of Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, HYD,who were murdered in a terrorist attack in Huwara several months ago.

Additionally, the family of Matan ben Michal asks the nation to daven for his refuah, after being seriously wounded in battle over the weekend.  As per his family’s statement, the doctors were forced to amputate both of his legs, and he remains ventilated and sedated in the ICU in Soroka hospital.

Yosef lived through much travail, loss, suffering, and trials and tribulations, in a foreign land away from his home and family.  Yet in his death, he reminds us that a Jew’s faith and belief never wavers, for geula will come and Eretz Yisrael will always be our place.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt’l, the Rav, teaches:  “Genuine geulah, genuine redemption, always comes suddenly, unexpectedly, at a time when people are ready to give up hope.  Sometimes historical situations keep deteriorating; people pray and cry, begging for mercy – but there is no answer to their prayer, only silence.  At that moment, when the crisis reaches its maximum and threatens the very existence of the community, when people begin to give up, the geulah suddenly comes and takes them out of the land of affliction. It comes in the middle of the night and knocks on the door when no one expects it, when everybody is skeptical about it, when everybody laughs off the possibility of redemption.

“This is what happened in Egypt.  וַיְהִי בַיָּמִים הָרַבִּים הָהֵם, וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, וַיֵּאָנְחוּ בְנֵייִשְׂרָאֵל מִןהָעֲבֹדָה, וַיִּזְעָקוּ; וַתַּעַל שַׁוְעָתָם אֶלהָאֱלֹקֹים, מִןהָעֲבֹדָה (Ex.2:23).  G-d did not answer at that moment, and the people had no knowledge that ‘G-d looked and G-d knew” (Ex.2:25).  When the crisis reached its climax and the Jewish people were on the verge of complete assimilation and disappearance, Moshe came.  At the beginning, he was very far from successful; apparently, the plagues did not convince the Jews that redemption was near.  They did not expect Divine revelation that night.  Indeed, this is the most important feature of geulas Mitzrayim.  The redemption from Egypt consisted not only of the fact that our ancestors went from slavery to freedom, but, more importantly, that this redemption and the revelation of the Almighty were a surprise to them.  This is the nature of geulah” (The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening, Haggadah Shel Pesach, p.99-100, See as well: Festival of Freedom, p.58-59).

As we close the book of Bereishis once again, may the life and lessons of Yosef ha’Tzaddik continue to guide and inspire us.  צַדִּיק, בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶהthe righteous lives by his faith (Chavakuk 2:4).

Though our current situation is most difficult, and the world in which we live is an upside down world (Pesachim 50a), like Yosef, we know with absolute faith that G-d will remember and redeem us, and our home – our eternal home and promised Land – is Eretz Yisrael.

בברכת בשורות טובות וישעות בקרוב,


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