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Friday, December 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

    At the beginning of this week's parsha (47:29), Yaakov asks his son, Yoseif, for a favour, to bring his body back to Eretz Yisroel and bury him with his forefathers. Yoseif has no objections and agrees immediately. However, Yaakov then asks Yoseif to swear to him to that effect. Yoseif was Yaakov's dear and trusted son. Did he really have so little trust in him that he needed him to swear that he would heed his word?

    It seems that Yaakov made Yoseif swear not out of mistrust but out of concern that Yoseif would run into problems getting permission to leave Egypt as, indeed, he did. Yoseif requests permission to bury his father and Paroah's answer is (50:6) "Bury your father as he made you swear that you would." Rashi goes into even greater detail explaining that if not for this vow, Paroah would not have let Yoseif go. Paroah actually insisted that Yoseif renege on his vow. However, Paroah himself had made Yoseif promise not to reveal that he knew only seventy languages while Yoseif knew Lashon HaKodesh in addition to the seventy languages. Yoseif countered that if he was to renege on his father's vow, he would then renege on the vow that he made to Paroah. Yaakov knew that Paroah would not be happy with his right-hand man leaving the country and so he provided this vow as a means to help Yoseif leave.

    The aforementioned exchange between Yoseif and Paroah is rather puzzling. Is it possible that Yosef retorted with such a threat? Paroah was the most powerful man in all of Egypt and would certainly eliminate anyone who spoke to him with such disrespect. The Steipler Rav explains in Birchas Peretz, (and my father offers a similar, if not identical approach) that Yoseif was really telling Paroah that a person naturally feels an obligation to honour a promise. The vows a person makes are sacred to him. The breaking of a promise destroys this sacredness. Yoseif was simply warning Paroah that breaking his word to his father would have a subconscious effect on him. The promises he made will lose their sacredness in his mind and that might ultimately lead to the inadvertent disclosure of Paroah's secret. Paroah, realizing the lesson that Yosef was teaching, accepted his argument and allowed him to fulfill his vow.

   Yoseif is often referred to as Yoseif HaTzadik for his many righteous deeds. However, he clearly made a point of not keeping this righteousness to himself. A careful analysis of his various interactions in Mitzrayim show that he was constantly trying to teach others lessons in life. As the first man of galus, Yoseif was the proverbial light unto the nations to which we should all aspire.

Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Constellation Representation at Yaakov's Funeral by R' Ari Storch

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