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Vayechi - Putting Someone Else's Needs Before Our Own

In this shiur, delivered at Tomer Devorah, Rav Burg explains why Yaakov felt the need at this specific time to explain to Yosef why he buried Rachel on the side of the road and not in Chevron. Rachel was Mevater and put the needs of her children ahead of her own. This is the secret of redemption. As Hashem sees us putting the needs of others before our own, He in turn puts our needs before His own and redeems us even if we are unworthy.

(The article below, published on genaleph, also expresses the ideas contained in this shiur)



וַֽאֲנִ֣י | בְּבֹאִ֣י מִפַּדָּ֗ן מֵ֩תָה֩ עָלַ֨י רָחֵ֜ל בְּאֶ֤רֶץ כְּנַ֨עַן֙ בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ בְּע֥וֹד כִּבְרַת־אֶ֖רֶץ לָבֹ֣א אֶפְרָ֑תָה וָֽאֶקְבְּרֶ֤הָ שָּׁם֙ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ אֶפְרָ֔ת הִ֖וא בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם:

As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. (Bereishis 48:7)


Rashi addresses the obvious question: why now is Yaakov telling Yosef that his mother Rachel was buried on the side of the road? Rashi explains that Yaakov perceived that Yosef held some resentment against Yaakov for failing to bury Rachel in Mearas Hamachpelah where the other Avos and Imahos were buried. Now that Yaakov is asking for Yosef to ensure that he is buried in Mearas Hamachpelah he must address Yosef’s resentment so that his final wishes are fulfilled. Yaakov explains to Yosef that it was Divinely ordained that Rachel should be buried on the side of the road so that when Klal Yisrael is sent into exile she can be of assistance to them. Seeing Klal Yisrael heading into Golus, Rachel will emerge from her grave, weep and beg for mercy for her children (1).


Several questions arise as we consider Rashi’s explanation. Could it truly be that Yosef would have failed to fulfill Yaakov’s mission to be buried in Mearas Hamachpelah? Yosef is the child who is loved beyond any of the other children. Yosef is described as a Ben Zekunim (2) which Onkelos explained to mean that Yosef was a Talmid of Yaakov Avinu. Revering and honoring our Rabbeim, especially one’s own Rebbe is a Biblical obligation (3). Finally, there is a Mitzvah Lekayem Divrei HaMeis, to fulfill the wishes of a dying person (4). Yosef HaTzaddik certainly would have kept his word to bury Yaakov in Chevron. Why then is Yaakov concerned about Yosef’s resentment over his mother’s burial spot.


Some words don’t translate well to English. As parents we teach our children to be “mevater”, which literally means to give in. Giving in however is a poor translation. When we are in an argument with someone and we give in, it generally means that we are worn down and exhausted. We give in because it is just not worth fighting anymore. Maybe we give in because we just don’t want to create any more pain. In any event, a relationship that involves a large amount of “giving in” is generally a relationship that is already frayed and is holding a lot of resentment. Being “Mevater” is the recognition that this relationship is more important to me than whatever we are fighting about. If giving in comes from a place of weakness, being Mevater comes from a place of strength. It is our capacity to put the needs of someone else ahead of our own. Giving in deteriorates relationships, being Mevater strengthens them.

In a world that is focused on self love and care, we would do well to educate our children in the Middah of Vatranus. Chazal (5) speak about a person who is Maavir Al Middosav. Rashi explains this to mean a person who does not keep a record of the grievances he has experienced at the hands of others. The story is told about Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l who was once approached for a haskama by someone who had mistreated Rav Moshe in public, accusing him of failing to Pasken correctly etc… Rav Moshe wrote him a glowing approbation. One of Rav Moshe’s grandchildren asked Rav Moshe how far he is obligated to go considering the pain he had caused. Rav Moshe responded, Yom Kippur has passed since then and surely this man has done Teshuva. I just treat him as if this never happened. Only someone who draws from the wellspring of the soul could have the authentic confidence to not keep a tally of the pain that others have caused them. They avoid Machlokes not because they are weak but because they are not obsessed with themselves and the pain that others have caused them.


Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l would tell people that if they wanted to be spared from a harsh judgment they ought to work on being a Mevater. Why? Chazal (6) explain that we refer to Hashem as a Gibor (strong) because he withholds his anger from those who have sinned against Him. When we are Mevater we act as Hashem does. Those who are Maavir Al Middosav have a special Zechus in Shomayim because if we are Mevater on others, Hashem will be Mevater on us.


Rachel Imeinu is the ultimate Vatran. Recognizing that her sister Leah will be embarrassed when Yaakov sees that it is Leah and not Rachel that he is marrying, she gives over the secret signs that she and Yaakov had previously arranged. Some commentaries even go so far as to suggest that Leah never actually knew that Yaakov was meant to marry Rachel that night. Throughout all the pain that Rachel experienced as Leah had the children that Rachel was meant to have, she never let her sister know that she was not actually wanted by Yaakov. Rachel embodied the Middah of putting someone else’s needs before her own.


Perhaps we can suggest that this is why Yaakov buried Rachel on the side of the road. Surely Yaakov would have wanted to bury his beloved Rachel in Mearas Hamachpela so that one day he could be buried next to her. No doubt he would have wanted to give her the Kavod of being buried next to the other illustrious Avos. But Rachel was a Vatran. One day her children would be sent into exile. Rachel put aside her own desires to be buried next to her husband and the other Avos and Imahos so that she could advocate for her children. Rachel’s cries resonate deeply with Hashem because as a Vatran she calls on Hashem to be the same for Klal Yisrael and to redeem us from exile despite our sins.


There is no doubt that Yosef would have fulfilled the dying wishes of his father Yaakov to be buried in Mearas Hamachpela. Yosef is the beloved son and the loyal Talmid. Surely Yosef knew the Halacha of fulfilling the instructions of someone who is dying (7). Nevertheless, Yaakov was concerned on a Chinuch level. He perceived the resentment that Yosef held about his mother’s unbecoming burial plot. Yaakov’s request to be buried in Chevron brings up a trigger that Yosef had been harboring for many years. Yes he would have fulfilled Yaakov’s instructions but that is not what concerned Yaakov. In his final moments on this world, Yaakov gently reminds Yosef that he is the child of Rachel, the ultimate Vatran. He calls upon Yosef to be Maavir Al Middosav. Especially considering that Klal Yisrael would soon be beginning the long and bitter Golus Mitzrayim, it is imperative that Yaakov communicate to Yosef the value of being a Mevater for as we already mentioned, that is the secret of our ultimate redemption.


“Share nicely with others and they will share nicely with you.”


“Just forget about what she said, who cares.”


These are common sentiments that parents express to children but they are expressions of giving in, not of being Mevater. We can teach our children that sharing is a good Middah without making it a quid pro quo. We can teach our children to confront people who hurt them but without holding resentment towards them. They have enough in the tank that they don’t need to keep score. They can let go of pain that they have endured because the relationship is more important than being right. Well raised children are taught from an early age to put others before themselves. That there is no greater life than that which is lived in the service of another. There is no doubt that self care is important but it is important precisely because it allows us to care for another. As we parent the next generation of children, those that will with Hashem’s help experience the complete redemption, we must teach them the value of being a Mevater.


(1) Yirmiyahu 31:14(2) Bereishis 37:3(3) Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 5:1, 6:1(4) Gittin 35a, Rashi to Kesuvos 69b, Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 252:2(5) Rosh Hashana 17(6) Yoma 69b(7) Yoma 28b, Kiddushin 82a – The Avos kept the entire Torah, even the Rabbinic enactments. The Rema (Shut Rema Siman 10) explains that these Maamarei Chazal only refer to Avraham Avinu. Accordingly Yaakov did not keep the entire Torah and thus may not have been obligated to be Mekayem Divrei Hameis. The Ramban (Bereishis 26:5) argues that the Avos only kept the Torah in Eretz Yisrael and therefore one could make the argument that in Mitzrayim Yaakov had cause for concern. However, it is evident that Rashi disagreed with the Rema and the Ramban because Rashi (Bereishis 32:5) explains that Yaakov lived in the house of Lavan (outside of Erez Yisrael) and kept all 613 Mitzvos of the Torah. Given that we are dealing with Rashi’s explanation of Yaakov speaking with Yosef about his mother’s burial, we can safely assume that Yosef would have followed the halacha and been Mekayem Divrei HaMeis.




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