Parshas Beshalach 2019: No Body Left Behind
As the B’nai Yisroel (Jewish people) prepared themselves and their belongings to finally leave the exile of Egypt, we find in the very first aliyah Moshe preoccupied with something else.
At the end of Sefer Bereishis, Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) asked his sons swear to him by oath that they would bury him in Eretz Yisroel (Israel) rather in the land of Egypt. He had many reasons for this. A couple of those reasons included, he didn’t want the Egyptians to make a shrine out of his burial place and he didn’t want to be affected by any of the upcoming plagues. Yaakov also knew that when the final redemption came with the Messiah himself, He didn’t want to go through the pain of traveling back to Israel from Egypt. Yakov’s sons obliged with love and buried him in the Maaras HaMachpelah (cave of doubles).
According to Rashi, when it was time for Yosef (Joseph) to die he too didn’t want to be buried in Egypt. Yet he wasn't able to ask his children to bury him in Israel because the Pharoah would never have allowed it. So alternatively, he had them swear that at the end of the exile they would remember him and carry his corpse to the land of Israel.
Interestingly, Yosef was buried (temporarily) in the sea and Moshe had to raise him from the water through extraordinary measures. Aside from this, the Torah mentions that Moses was preoccupied amongst all the chaos of that night.
The Mechilta say this is telling us the wisdom and uprightness of Moshe was truly remarkable. All of the B’nai Yisroel were dealing with the spoils (of Egypt) and Moshe was dealing with the mitzvah of the bones of Yosef. As we discussed last week the Jews were privileged and promised the vast wealth of Egypt, however Moshe didn’t seem to have any interest.
What about this simple act of retrieving Yosef’s bones is such a demonstration of Moshe’s wisdom and uprightness?
The Zohar in Teruma explains a concept that one who performs a mitzvah with a large sum of money is considered beloved, and especially if there was a large sum of money lost in order to perform the mitzvah. Moshe who was retrieving Yosef at the time when the entire nation was collecting and accumulating wealth; willingly sacrificed his own personal chance at wealth.
It was exactly this selfless act of our leader that was so commendable. The importance of doing a mitzvah and honoring Yosef was far greater to him than any sum of money. Truly an example for us all.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters