Pearls of Rashi – Vayechi

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, we are told of the passing of Yaakov our Patriarch. He had spent the last 17 years of his life in Egypt together with his progeny. Once he knew that there was not much time left, he asked his son Yosef to make sure that he was not buried in Egypt; he wanted to be buried in Israel together with our other patriarchs and matriarchs. He went so far as to make Yosef swear that he would do so[1]. He then blessed Yosef’s two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, and all of his children.

Once the time came, his children had to bring him to the Me’oras Hamachpelah, where his ancestors were buried. The Torah tells us that[2] “his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and they buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Avrohom bought for burial property from Ephron the Chiti …”

Rashi makes a number of comments on this verse. Among them is that Yaakov ordered that “… Levi shall not carry it because he is destined to carry the Aron of Hashem …”

We need to understand Rashi’s words. Carrying the Ark was something which would not be needed until the distant future. Even then, it would not be carried by Levi himself; it would be carried by his descendants many generations removed from him. Why should he lose the Mitzvah of carrying his father’s coffin and bringing him to rest?

The explanation is as follows. The servitude in Egypt did not begin until the passing of Yaakov. Rashi says at the beginning of our Parshah[3]. “As soon as our father Yaakov passed away, the eyes and the heart of Israel were “closed,” because of the misery of slavery. That was when they, the Egyptians, began to enslave them.” Bringing Yaakov out of Mitzraim to Israel actually marked the beginning of exile and slavery.

This is why Levi did not carry Yaakov’s coffin. Yaakov’s passing marked the beginning of exile and slavery. Levi had no connection whatsoever with exile. He and his tribe transcended exile. Levi was the only tribe which was never enslaved in Egypt. Their only master was Hashem.

Just as was the case with Levi, each of us can raise ourselves above the limitations of exile[4]. All one must do is “set himself aside and stand before G-d to serve Him, minister to Him and know Him. He must proceed justly as Hashem commanded him, removing from his neck the yoke of the many reckonings which people seek.”

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 20, Page 235

Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen
Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778
May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יוצא לאור ע”י בני משפחתה שיחיו

[1] Our Parshah, Bereishis 47:31.

[2]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 50:13.

[3]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 47:28.

[4]. See Rambam, Laws of Shemittah, Chapter 13, Paragraph 13.

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