These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on January 5, 2012 by Barer

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This week marks the end of Bereishit (Genesis).  The parsha is focused on the blessings that Yaakov/Yisrael gives his twelve sons, but I want to focus on the end of the parsha.  After the blessings, Yaakov/Yisrael “expires” – the biblical phrase for dying.  Since he asked to be buried in the Cave of Machpelah (which I visited a couple weeks ago), Yosef goes to ask Pharaoh for permission to leave his duties and go bury his father.  This scene is striking in its role reversal for Yosef.  Just a few chapters earlier, we saw Yosef in Pharaoh’s shoes, faced with his brother Yehuda asking to be switched for Binyamin so that the promise Yehuda made to his father would be kept (that Binyamin would be returned to Cana’an).  Now Yosef experiences what it is like to ask one’s superior for a favour in order to fulfill a paternal promise.  Yosef’s request is granted, and a grand retinue accompanies him to the Cave of Machpelah.  The final scene of Bereishit is Yosef oddly mirroring his father and dying after asking to be buried in Cana’an when Bnei Yisrael leave Egypt.  Oddly, because, while Yosef lived to 110 years, he still seems to have died before his ten older brothers, who he instructed to carry his bones out of Egypt.  Did his job as viceroy of Egypt coupled with the stress of the family drama that has been recounted over the last few parshiyot lead to his dying first?

Lord over Egypt

Internal family strife

An early death?