Tied To The Land

Both Jacob and Joseph understood the importance of imbuing their descendants with a commitment to the Land of Israel.

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Israel is Our Destiny

Jacob knew that he wasn't making an easy request in asking Joseph to bring his dead body to Israel for burial. But he decided to move his sons and grandsons into understanding that Israel, not Egypt, was their home. After all, Jacob had been born in Israel, not Goshen. In short, he was determined to try to turn his death into a new beginning for his children and grandchildren.

At the end of the portion, we read about Joseph's death. Joseph, who rose to greatness in Egypt and who had internalized much of its culture, "took an oath of the children of Israel, saying 'God will surely remember you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence'" (Genesis 50:25). The parashah thus ends with Joseph also commanding the children of Israel to swear to take his bones to the Land of Israel.

Joseph's greatness flows from the knowledge that he is acting in service of a destiny greater than himself. Egypt, the place that was so much a part of him, still ultimately was exile. What was important to him was the future of his people, not its past. He too had to make it clear to the people that its future wasn't in Egypt.

Genesis ends with the deaths of two great leaders of the Jewish people, leaders who knew how to turn their endings into a furtherance of the dream of redemption in Canaan. Jacob and Joseph desired, and succeeded, in commanding the children of Israel to aspire to life as a people committed to and based in its land.

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Rabbi David Ariel-Joel

Rabbi David Ariel-Joel is an associate rabbi at The Temple in Louisville, KY. He was was associate director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and directed its Beit Midrash (house of study) program in Jerusalem. A graduate of the Israel rabbinical program of the Hebrew Union College, he also holds an MA in Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University.