Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


The Torah in this week's reading records for us the end of the Egypt of our patriarchs and matriarchs. The era ends on a note of serenity, family harmony and bountiful success. The Jewish family is enjoying the best that the Egyptian civilization and economy could offer. However, nothing in human life that is physical is permanent.

In a century or more, all of this goodness and security will disappear, to be replaced by slavery, idolatry and the crushing of the Jewish spirit and body. Yaakov is aware through the divine spirit that has been restored to him that difficult times will come to visit his descendants. Yosef is also well aware that there are bad years ahead. In effect, he is reliving the interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh that catapulted him to greatness and power.
There will be a period of good years for his children and grandchildren in Egypt but they will be followed by years of persecution and slavery. So much so that the good years will be forgotten and only the bitter memories  will remain and be etched in the Jewish psyche forever.
However, he promises his family that they will be redeemed and restored to the national and spiritual greatness, and that when that happens they should remove his remains from Egypt and bring him home with them to the land of Israel. This poignant request marks the defining final moment of the era of our patriarchs and matriarchs. It becomes the symbol for all later generations… that no matter how dark the night of exile may be, eventually we will all return home to our promised land – even the bones of the dead will be brought back.
The Egyptians thought that they would hold the Jewish people in eternal slavery and that the bones of Joseph could be held as hostage to Jewish attempts to leave Egypt. They embalmed him, placed his remains in a lead casket and in true mafia style, sank it in the Nile River.
The Egyptians were not willing to let Joseph go, just as the Ukrainians today are not willing to let the remains of Rav Nachhman of Breslov leave Uman. After all, without Umann there really is very little tourist industry active in today's Ukraine. How ironic it is that the Ukraine with its bloody history of anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution for century’s, profits from the grave of a very Jewish leader and holy man! But I digress.
Joseph's interpretations of the dreams of Pharaoh are meant to give us an insight into the progression of Jewish history throughout the ages. Even when we forgot what our homeland looked like, when we felt like we wanted to go home, we always knew where that home was located. Even when others lived in our home we still believed that the bones of Joseph and those of his descendants would guide us to our true home.
This perhaps the greatest legacy that Jacob and Joseph have left us and for all future generations. Both Jacob and Joseph still live.
Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.