by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Vayechie 5767This sedra closes the Book of Bereishis. It describes Jacob's death and his blessings for his children, the children of Jacob/Israel. Jacob asks Joseph to make arrangements for him to be buried in Eretz Yisrael, in Ma'aras Hamachpeilah.
And the days of Israel drew near to death and he called for his son Joseph and said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes please place your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and in truth. Please do not bury me in Egypt."
In kindness and in truth: Rashi: The kindness one does with the dead is true kindness, for one does not expect any remuneration.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi tells us that the words "Kindness and truth" mean that the kindness that the dying Jacob asks of his son is a pure (true) kindness. Meaning, that if Joseph does the kindness he can have no ulterior motive of receiving something from his father - because the kindness (burying him in Eretz Yisrael) will perforce be done after Jacob's death and thus he could not pay him back. Thus, the kindness one does for the dead is always a true kindness - an act done purely out of feelings of kindness with no ulterior motives.
But Rashi's comment raises some questions.
See Genesis 24:49 where Abraham's servant, Eliezer, uses these same words when he asks Laban to give Rebecca to Isaac for a wife.
Another question arises when we compare our comment with another Rashi-comment further on. See Genesis 48:22 in this week's sedra.
What questions would you ask in view of these verses?
One Question: Eliezer asked for "kindness and truth" for his master Abraham who was still alive. So if Laban consented to Eliezer's request to give Rebecca to Isaac he could look forward to gifts from Abraham or from Isaac, yet he used the words "kindness and truth".
Can you suggest an answer to this question?
Hint: Think logically.
An Answer: There is no reason to assume that Rashi means that every and any use of these words means kindness done with no ulterior motive. All he actually says is that kindness done for a dying person is one of kindness and truth because here no recompense can be expected. But the words "kindness and truth" can be used in other circumstances as well; perhaps for the living and in that case would have a different meaning.
What might the meaning be in Eliezer's case?
An Answer: Eliezer could simply be saying: Do honest kindness. That is, keep your promise and don't renege on it (be truthful about your promise of kindness).
THE SECOND QUESTION
The Second Question: Rashi says further on (48:22 ) that Jacob promised Joseph the city of Shechem as reward for taking care of his burial. So we see that Joseph did receive a promise of a reward for his kindness before Jacob's death.
What answer would you give here?
FURTHER UNDERSTANDING RASHI
An Answer: In fact Jacob did reward Joseph for his kindness. But at the time of Jacob's request he had made no mention of a reward. So Joseph's consent to do kindness was in fact a kindness of truth; he consented with no thought of reward.
May we be privileged to do acts of kindness with no ulterior motive. But even if we do have an ulterior motive this should not prevent us from acting kindly to another person.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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