Towards the end of his life Yaakov calls upon Yosef, his son, asking him to “perform kindness and truth with me; please do not bury me in Egypt; let me lie with my fathers…”.

Yosef’s response is: “I will do as you said.”

But Yaakov is not satisfied; he insists that Yosef swear to carry out his promise.

Ramban comments that the demand for the oath is not a reflection of any doubt that Yaakov entertains as to Yosef’s reliability, but rather is meant to empower him in his appeal to Pharoah: perhaps he would not give Yosef permission to go, therefore Yaakov makes him swear, so as to strengthen his resolve.

But why is Yaakov so intent on being buried in Ma’arat ha-Makhpela? After all, Yaakov himself failed to bury his beloved wife, Rachel at that spot. Thus, even if there is some degree of importance attached to burial there, why is Rachel’s case different from that of Yaakov?

It appears that these words hint to Yaakov’s final lesson to his sons, and particularly to Yosef.

Yaakov’s life is a long chain of challenges with the living: from the outset he must live with Esav, his brother, with the question of Yitzhak’s future heir hanging over them. This conflicts starts before they are even born, and at there birth we read: “Afterwards his brother emerged, with his hand grasping Esav’s heel”: this is the source for Yaakov’s name (“ekev” = heel), which eternalizes this moment of conflict. Yaakov-from the time of his very formation-is a person who strives and struggles. At first, it seems that Yaakov has lost the battle- his hand grasps the heel of his brother-but later on this changes, as Esav himself declares: “It is not appropriate that he is called Yaakov? For he has usurped me twice: he took my birthright, and now also my blessing!”

Yaakov’s struggle against Esav with regard to the birthright is no mere fight for status. It is, essentially, an ideological battle that rages over the question of how the world should be run: according to natural forces, reality, realpolitik, or according to a spiritual vision and faith. Is a hunter, a man of the field, the right person to lead the world, or should the role rest with “a plain man dwelling in tents” (of Torah)?

This question is unequivocally resolved when Yaakov receives the blessings, and his father retroactively recognizes his ability; “He shall also be blessed”. In other words, Yaakov proves that it is possible to connect these worlds; that a man of faith can take the lead even in natural, worldly matters.

Yaakov provesonce again that he is the chosen one and that his path is the right one when he prevails against “the man”- the prince of Esav. This confrontation would seem to represent the final struggle against the philosophy of a division of authority between political leadership and spiritual leadership.

In summary we may say that Yaakov bequeaths to his sons the consciousness that in life we must grapple and progress and retain our spiritual, idealistic perspective as we live our lives in this physical, material world. It is for this reason that Yaakov is awarded his new name- Yisrael. “You have striven (sarita) with God and with men, and you have prevailed.

Is this the end of the struggle? Does the battle go on only as long as I am alive and have someone or something to confront?

Yaakov teaches that this is not the case.

Even after death we still have the power to strive and to progress.

As Yaakov teaches: “Please do not bury me in Egypt.” In other words: Do not relegate this message only to life in Egypt. Do not think that the struggles are only against someone else, against those who are different, against Esav, Lavan , the Egyptians, etc. The struggle is also- and more importantly-internal. It takes place inside me, in my private life: am I living as a “Yisrael”- a person who proceeds with a vision? Do I look at the world with the eyes of a person of faith?

A person who seeks to be buried together with his ancestors wants to eternalize the continuity that he represented during his life. In this way he demonstrates that he is continuing, in his life, the path that his forefathers walked. This is what Yaakov wantsto show: he has not invented a new path. He has expanded, widened, deepened the path: the path is the same one! It is the path of struggling and grappling in life; connecting and deepening both outwardly and inwardly; continuity on one hand; development and upgrading on the other.

In this sense Yaakov is no different than Rachel: he, just like Rachel, continues his life mission from the place his burial: he continues the path of the forefathers, while she continues her role of the eternal matriarch, awaiting the return of her children from exile.

Thus we declare: “Am Yisrael Chai”, tha nation of Yisrael (the Jewish nation, descendants of Yaakov)- lives (in the fullest and most eternal sense of the word)!!

Shabbat Shalom!