Bring this “other” person closer

Thursday, 25 January, 2024 - 6:47 am


to bring this “other” person closer

“And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.” So it says in the description of the Exodus from Egypt at the beginning of Parashat Beshalach that we will read tomorrow. Why did Moshe Rabbeinu take them? “Because he (Yosef) had firmly adjured the Children of Israel, saying, God will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here with you.”

Like his father, Yosef wanted to be buried in the Holy Land, and therefore he made a special request, which was fulfilled by Bnei Yisrael. He was buried, as we all know, in Shechem, in Samaria.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe objects to the use of the words “bones” – “Atzamot”. We are talking here about a truly special person: he was the viceroy of Egypt, and we call him “Yosef HaTzaddik.” It would have been more fitting to say, “And Moshe took Yosef’s coffin.” This would have been the minimal amount of respect shown to Yosef, what anyone would have wanted said in reference to a relative of his. But, instead, we have here, “Yosef’s bones.”

But if that is the way it is expressed, there must be some special meaning attached to it, and the meaning of “Yosef’s bones” is that, beyond the fact that Moshe personally, physically, brought Yosef’s body to the land of Israel, together with this body he also brought Yosef’s “Atzmiyut” – Yosef HaTzaddik’s essence, for the benefit of all future generations. What was Yosef’s essence? Helping others. He devoted his life to other people. Every public figure today says that he is on “a mission.” Yosef was the role model for people whose mission is to work for the benefit of the public.

Even his name includes a similar message: “And she named him Yosef, saying, May Hashem add to me another son.” So said Rachel, Yosef’s mother, when he was born. The inner meaning of this, says the Rebbe, is that there is a son who is considered the “other” son, because he is different in his behavior, his deeds and perhaps even in his looks, and Yosef’s mission is to bring this “other” person closer and give him the true feeling that he is a son, for that is the truth: we are all members of this nation, the Children of Israel. How typical for the Rebbe to espouse such a commentary.

And so, Moshe Rabbeinu brought to the land of Israel not only Yosef’s casket, but also Yosef’s “Atzmiyut” – Yosef’s acknowledgment and understanding, outlook and perspective, that perspective that will teach all of us to look at the other and understand that he is also a child. In every class in school there is that “other”, and every one of us, each one from his point of view, has such an “other” among his acquaintances, and certainly among those who are not his friends and acquaintances. Here one must bring up the awareness of the “bones of Yosef” and remember that these “other” people are his brothers and sisters, the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. And in the merit of this, we will be granted that most desired blessing, “Bless us all, our father, as one, with the light of Your face (= the Heavenly Light).”


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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