Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
This weeks Parasha opens with a description of the last days of the life of Yaakov Avinu after his descent to Mitzrayim. Yaakov’s last request of his son Yosef is that he be buried in Eretz Yisrael.
And the time drew near for Yisrael to die: and he called his son Yosef, and said to him, If now I have found favor in your sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Mitzrayim: but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Mitzrayim, and bury me in their burial place.
At the end of the Parasha, when Yosef is about to die, he too commands Bnei Yisrael to eventually bury him in Eretz Yisrael.
And Yosef took an oath of the children of Yisrael, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.
Why is burial in Eretz Yisrael of such great importance? Why did both Yaakov and Yosef made this special request before they died? We all understand the great virtue of living in Eretz Yisrael. We all appreciate the merit of performance of Mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael. We all feel the great sanctity of Eretz Yisrael. Yet, when we have died we can no longer benefit from these things.
The Midrash Rabba asks: “What could it possibly matter to our bodies? Why did the Avot endeavor to be buried in Eretz Yisrael?” The Midrash answers its own question in the following manner.”
R’ Shimon ben Lakish said [of Eretz Yisrael], that its dead will be the first to arise in the Revival of the Dead ”. Due to its special Kedusha the Revival of the Dead will begin in Eretz Yisrael. The Holy Zohar teaches that at the time of Tchiyat Hameitim, the graves in Eretz Yisrael will be the first to open and will be the first to see the Divine Presence of God – Shechina. The dead buried outside of Israel will, on the other hand need go through a process called the Rolling of the Dead until they reach Eretz Yisrael and only then will they arise from their graves and see the Shechina.
The Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero explains this section of the Zohar. The place of burial and the sanctity of the place of burial cause the Shechina to rest upon the Neshama. The greater the sanctity of the place of burial the greater intensity of the Divine Presence. Therefore, all the Tzadikkim desired to be buried in Eretz Yisrael, particularly in the holy cities of Yerushalyim and Chevron.
This recognition of the unique quality of burial in Eretz Yisrael has led to the custom, outside of Eretz Yisrael, to mix soil from Eretz Yisrael with the soil of the burial plot.
If burial in Eretz Yisrael is treasured and recognized for its unique qualities, how much more so is this true of living in Eretz Yisrael.
Yehi-Ratzon, that we should all merit to live in Eretz Yisrael and benefit from its unique and numerous virtues.
Rav Shlomo Sobol has recently joined team in Jerusalem, as the coordinator for Bogrim/Alumni of our program. We wish him much Hatzlacha!