Pearls of Rashi – Parshas Vayechi

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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 many comments on this verse. Among them is that Yaakov ordered that “… Levi shall not carry it because he will carry the Aron of Hashem …”

We need to understand Rashi’s words. It would be several centuries before they would carry the ark. Even then, Levi himself would not carry it; his descendants many generations later would carry it. Why should he lose the Mitzvah of taking 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] that “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 marked the beginning of exile and slavery.

Because this marked the beginning of the Jews’ slavery, Levi did not carry Yaakov’s coffin. Levi had no connection whatsoever with exile. He and his tribe transcended exile. Levi was the only tribe that never served as slaves in Egypt. Hashem was their sole master.

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

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י חתנו ובתו שיחיו
הרה”ת ר’ שמואל ורבקה שי’ מענדלסאהן

[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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