Parshat Vayechi: The connecting grace…

The second Pasuk of Vayechi reads:

וַיִּקְרְב֣וּ יְמֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ לָמוּת֒ וַיִּקְרָ֣א ׀ לִבְנ֣וֹ לְיוֹסֵ֗ף וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ שִֽׂים־נָ֥א יָדְךָ֖ תַּ֣חַת יְרֵכִ֑י וְעָשִׂ֤יתָ עִמָּדִי֙ חֶ֣סֶד וֶאֱמֶ֔ת אַל־נָ֥א תִקְבְּרֵ֖נִי בְּמִצְרָֽיִם׃ (Bereshit 47,29)

“When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have now found favour in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with loving kindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt.”

I was intrigued by the way Yaakov Avinu spoke to his own son, Yosef. “If I have found favour in your eyes” Did Yaakov Avinu, as a father, has to “lower” himself to Yosef Hatzadik in order to ask him to be buried in the holy land? Couldn’t he have instructed him to do so?  (I do feel comforted that Rav Hirsch asked this very question before….)

Perhaps; Yaakov Avinu knew that the mission of taking him back to Eretz Yisrael would not be a big issue. However, politically it could be a great embarrassment for his son, Viceroy Yosef. At the time they were all living in Egypt, enjoying a special high status granted to them by Pharaoh himself. Expectation at the Egyptian side was that they would integrate and contribute a lot more to Egyptian society. In line with the huge contribution made by Yosef himself. 

Taking Yaakov back to Eretz Yisrael, would give the clearest sign yet that intention was just to stay in Egypt as long as needed, and thereby “insulting” the Egyptian hosts and the special status they have received. 

Yaakov Avinu felt he had to use the biggest tool he had: מציאת חן or „finding favour in order to ensure his request being fulfilled. This special characteristic was the basis of the unique relationship between himself and Yosef Hatzadik; Yosef always had a special “Chein” (חן) in his father’s eyes. As a son, he “found favour in Yaakov’s eyes” from the moment he was born. 

Now – as his own life draws to an end, Yaakov Avinu has a request which is not easy to fulfil, and he, for once, relies on the same unique characteristic which existed between them. This time, for his own benefit.  נשיאת חן…

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld