By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
PASSING THE BUCK
Sometimes, we have an opportunity to accomplish a deed which has eternal returns. Of course each mitzvah that we perform has a spiritual value that is only redeemed in the next world. However, the ramifications of each mitzvah that we perform are usually limited to the individual himself. But in this parsha we have a striking example of perpetual and global implications. As the entire nation prepares to leave Egypt, their house of bondage for several generations, everyone is scrambling around looking to gather more gold and silver. However, Moshe has a different game plan. Recalling the oath that Yosef had made them all swear that they will bury him in Eretz Yisroel, Moshe is searching for Yosef’s casket. Moshe’s attitude is captured by the verse in Mishlei that states that one who is wise pursues mitzvos.
The Medrash poses the question as to why Yosef merited that Moshe, the leader of our nation, should attend to this need to transport Yosef to Eretz Yisroel for final burial. The answer is because Yosef insured that his father should be interred in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, a direct result of Yosef’s care and concern for his father’s honorable burial in his proper place insured that he himself would merit the exact same treatment.
Additionally, the Medrash explains that Moshe was searching for Yosef’s remains because he knew that he will have to split the sea in order for the people to leave Egypt. In the merit of Yosef, the sea split and therefore Moshe needed to locate Yosef’s casket to insure that he would be able to carry out his mission. And not only did the sea split to allow the people to cross over, but all the waters in the entire world also split. From this Medrash it would appear that Moshe needed Yosef to split the sea and not that Yosef merited Moshe’s attention because he himself had taken his father for burial in Eretz Yisroel.
Perhaps we may suggest that the mitzvah that Yosef performed, interring his father in Eretz Yisroel, surpassed the normal parameters of doing a mitzvah. Yosef had to negotiate with Pharaoh to allow him to leave Egypt. There was a risk that perhaps they might be attacked along the route. And, in general, the trip was long and arduous. Yet Yosef realized the importance of what he was doing and therefore he accepted this responsibility despite all the hardships that he encountered. The performing of this mitzvah was so important that he ignored all the potential challenges that might arise and just focused upon the value of this mitzvah which he needed to perform. Therefore, when the nation was redeemed from Egypt in a supernatural fashion, who should be ‘asked’ to lead them out and split the sea, of course it would be Yosef. The physical barrier, the sea, which was blocking their way was removed by Yosef. Yosef, who did not reckon with the physical barriers that one encounters in life, rather his focus was only on the spiritual element of his life had the power to stop the sea’s flow and require it to split for the nation!
Our exodus from Egypt was the forerunner of all of our subsequent emancipation from our various exiles. It captures the tremendous ‘firepower’ that Hashem displayed in order to provide us with lessons to imbue all future generations with. The Seder at which we celebrate our deliverance from slavery is the all important family activity which allows us to convey our beautiful heritage to all future generations. Indeed, Yosef’s actions were eternal and the ramifications of his determination to fulfill Hashem’s will ‘lives’ with us until this very day.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
The same way that the soul is nourished through the food that our bodies need for its sustenance, so too, does the body receive nourishment from the soul’s intake of its sustenance.