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Rolling Home

Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

by Rabbi Ozer Alport

Rashi writes (Gen. 47:29) that one of Yaakov's reasons for not wanting to be buried in Egypt was that those buried outside of the land of Israel are forced to suffer the pain of rolling through tunnels to reach the land of Israel for the resurrection of the dead. If this was his concern, of what benefit was it for him to be buried in Hebron when the Talmud (Ketubot 111b) teaches that the righteous will need to be rolled to Jerusalem for the resurrection of the dead?

The M'rafsin Igri answers that those who are buried outside of Israel must roll through the ground until they reach Jerusalem, at which point they are resurrected. In contrast, those who are buried in other cities in Israel are first brought back to life in their current locations, after which they are able to walk normally to Jerusalem. It was the pain and anguish of the first experience which Yaakov wished to avoid. Alternatively, the Arizal writes that there is a cave which directly connects to the Cave of the Patriarchs to the Western Wall, and every Erev Shabbos after midday the forefathers go to the Wall via this cave. In light of this, Yaakov's concern didn't apply to being buried in Hebron, as it offers a direct connection to Jerusalem and would spare him the need to roll through tunnels to reach there.

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As a fulfillment of Yaakov's blessing, fathers bless their sons on Friday night that they should grow up to be like Ephraim and Menashe (Gen. 48:20). Of all of our ancestors, why do we specifically bless our sons to be like Ephraim and Menashe instead of Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Yosef, or any of the other tribes? Further, if there is something unique about Ephraim and Menashe, why don't we just choose one of them to mention; what is the intent of blessing our sons to be like both of them?

The Meged Yosef explains that almost from the beginning of time, there has been a problem of sibling rivalry. It was responsible for the first murder in history, when Kayin killed his brother Hevel due to his jealousy that his brother's sacrifice found favor in God's eyes and his did not. Yishmael had to be sent away to protect Yitzchok, and Yaakov had to flee for his life from his brother Eisav. Certainly Yaakov's children were no strangers to jealousy, as they almost killed Yosef for being their father's favorite child.

On the other hand, when Yaakov blessed the younger Ephraim to be greater than the older Menashe, which certainly could have been grounds for fighting and anger, we find no hint of ill will between them. As the Shabbos Queen comes to permeate our houses with an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, we specifically bless our sons that they should go in the ways of Ephraim and Menashe and there should be only peace and harmony between them always.

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Rashi writes (Gen. 50:5) that Yaakov took all of the gold and silver that he earned in the house of Lavan, made it into a pile, and told Eisav to take it in exchange for his burial plot in Hebron. Why is Ephron so heavily criticized for charging Avraham 400 silver pieces in exchange for the entire cave, while no mention is made of Eisav's greed in taking much more than that for one burial plot?

The Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah 329-330) notes that at the time that Avraham purchased the cave from Ephron, its worth was relatively minimal. For this reason, he is criticized for demanding such a large price for the cave. Yaakov, on the other hand, was seeking to purchase a portion of the cave in which Avraham, Sorah, Yitzchok, and Rivkah were already buried, which gave it tremendous value and justified the exorbitant price received by Eisav.

The M'rafsin Igri explains that the primary criticism of Ephron is not that he demanded an excessive price, but that he initially implied that Avraham could have the cave for free and subsequently inflated the price substantially, in contrast to Eisav whose actions were always consistent, as he insisted on an excessive price from the beginning.

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