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Opinion & Comment
A Lifestyle According to the Torah and Halocho
by HaRav Sholom Ber Sorotzkin

1) "And as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rochel died on me in the land of Canaan along the way, when yet there was but a little way to come to Efrat, and I buried her there on the road of Efrat, that is Beis Lechem" (Bereishis 48:7). Rashi (ibid.) explains, "`When I came from Paddan' -- although I am troubling you to bring me to be buried in the land of Canaan, and this is something I did not do for your mother. Since she died near Beis Lechem I buried her there, and did not bring her even to Beis Lechem. I knew you were offended by my doing that, but I want you to know that Hashem had told me to do it, so that she will be [on the way to Beis Lechem] to help her children . . .."

This needs to be explained. Why did Yaakov Ovinu a'h, when requesting his son Yosef to bury him in Eretz Yisroel, find it appropriate to apologize for burying his mother Rochel on the way to Beis Lechem and not in the city itself? Did Yaakov Ovinu think that because he did not bury Yosef's mother in the city, Yosef would not fulfill his request?

Furthermore, Yosef's resentment at his father's not bringing his mother Rochel to the city is irrelevant altogether to Yaakov's request to be buried in Eretz Yisroel and not in Egypt. Even if he did not have to bury Yaakov in Eretz Yisroel, Yosef would anyway have had complaints because of Yaakov's burying his mother on the way.

Let us study the continuation of the parsha: "Moreover, I have given to you one portion more than your brother, which I took from the hand of the Emori with my sword and with my bow" (v. 22). Rashi (ibid.) explains, "since you troubled yourself to see to my burial, I too gave you an inheritance: to be buried there. And what is it? Shechem. This is as is written, `And the bones of Yosef, which the children of Yisroel brought up out of Egypt, they buried in Shechem" (Yehoshua 24:32).

Why did Yaakov Ovinu give Yosef a grave site to be buried in later? Could Yaakov not have given Yosef some other gift for taking care of burying his father? Why a grave site, of all things? Is this perhaps a matter of "a measure for measure?"

We can understand the depth in this episode by first studying a ruling of the Rambam's (Hilchos Oveil 14:1): "It is a positive mitzvah to visit the sick and to console mourners, to deal with the dead, to help a kallah marry, to escort guests [on their way after their visits], to see to all burial needs, to carry [the departed to his grave] on one's shoulder and walk in front of him, to eulogize him and dig [the grave] and bury [him in it]. . . Even though these mitzvos are of rabbinic origin they are included in [the Torah mitzvah of] `You shall love your neighbor as yourself' -- anything that you would want others to do for you, you should do for those who are your brethren in Torah and mitzvos."

We see from the Rambam that although burying a dead person and providing the other needs of burial is only a rabbinic mitzvah, one also fulfills thereby the mitzvah of the Torah of, "You shall love your neighbor like yourself." This posuk teaches us that everything you would want others to do for you when you are buried you are obligated to do for them.

Before Yaakov Ovinu asked Yosef to bury him and bring his body from Egypt to Eretz Yisroel, Yosef could not have resented his father's burying Rochel on the way and not in the city proper. It was only after Yaakov Ovinu's request -- after seeing that he himself loathed being buried in Egypt -- that Yosef's resentment about Yaakov's burying Rochel where she died would awaken.

The Rambam explains to us that the foundation of the halocho to engage in burying a person stems from, "You shall love your neighbor like yourself" -- everything you would want others to do for you when you need to be buried, you are obligated to do for them. Therefore when Yaakov requested that his corpse be carried to Eretz Yisroel, Yosef understood that Yaakov did not want to be buried where he died, and so Yosef's resentment might have been kindled: "If now you do not want to be buried where you die, why did you not bring my mother to be buried inside the city? According to the halochos of burying people, everything you would want others to do for you when you are buried, you are obligated to do for them!"

Until that moment Yosef could have believed that Yaakov wanted to be buried where he died, but now it was clear that this was not so. Yaakov therefore revealed to Yosef that Hashem had commanded him to bury Rochel at the roadside, so that no contradiction existed between his asking Yosef to bury him in Eretz Yisroel and his burying Rochel on the way.

Now we can also reconcile our question about Yaakov saying to Yosef, "Moreover I have given you one portion more than your brothers," which Rashi explains thus: "since you troubled yourself to see to my burial, I also gave you an inheritance: to be buried there." We asked, Why did Yaakov decide to give this particular present to Yosef?

Yaakov wanted to obligate Yosef because of hilchos kevuras hameis to carry his corpse to Eretz Yisroel. Since now, after Yaakov's present, Yosef himself had a grave-plot in Eretz Yisroel, and when he died he would surely want to be buried in Eretz Yisroel and not in Egypt, he was therefore obligated according to halocho to bring his father, too, to be buried in Eretz Yisroel.

Someone who contemplates deeply will see a pivotal principle being taught about how a person should live according to the Torah's way. We would think, according to how a person normally thinks and feels, that Yaakov Ovinu a'h did not act properly in burying Rochel at the roadside. It was an apparent belittling of his wife's honor, which she rightfully deserved.

Nonetheless, Yaakov did not feel any need at all even to explain to Yosef why he had done so, until he himself asked to be brought to Eretz Yisroel to be buried. It seems, also, that Yosef himself did not feel any resentment until Yosef requested not to be buried in Egypt, although it should have been quite natural for him to be terribly offended. Only after Yaakov's own request, when according to the halocho there was a justification for resentment, did Yaakov explain why he had acted the way he did.

As long as according to the halocho there was no reason to complain about his actions, Yaakov did not feel any need to explain what he had done, and Yosef himself actually did not feel even the slightest resentment. Without a firm halachic basis to have a complaint no bitterness existed among them.

In our times too, we frequently see that people innovate new "halochos" and modes of behavior which have nothing to do with the halocho, but are altogether based on feelings and reasoning. These people, however, claim that this is how Judaism teaches them to act.

It is obvious from all the above that as long as there is no halachic source, although according to the yardstick of a person's feelings a certain act seems beneficial or the opposite, we should not have anything to do with it. We must embrace only the halocho that has been transmitted down through the generations.

HaRav Sholom Ber Sorotzkin is the rosh yeshiva of Ateres Shlomoh in Beis Shemesh

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