The Remains of Someday: Vayehi 2018
by Adam J. Rosenbaum
Pre-Game Chatter: What do you want people to remember about you hundreds of years from now? Is it a particular idea, a particular memory, a particular object, or some combination thereof?
At the end of Joseph’s life, his last request is to be buried in the Promised Land:
The Pitch: “At length, Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ So Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.’ Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.” – Genesis 50:24-26
Swing #1: “Rashi, quoting the midrash, sees the pakod pakadti [‘taken note’] formula as the linguistic key to redemption: ‘In this wording, they are redeemed.’ These are, in fact, the key words used twice by Moses to signify God’s promise of redemption: ‘God will surely take note of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ So Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.’” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture
Swing #2: “The contrast between Jacob’s state funeral and his burial in the ancestral vault at Machpelah, and the quiet burial of Joseph in Egypt is most striking. One can sense the deterioration in the situation of the Israelites that had taken place in the intervening 54 years. Both Jacob and Joseph die with the divine promise of redemption on their lips. The patriarchal period thus opens and closes on the same note.” – Nahum M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis
Swing #3: “And he lived 110 years and then died at a good old age, having enjoyed the greatest perfection of beauty, and wisdom, and eloquence of speech. The beauty of his person is testified to by the violent love with which he inflamed the wife of the eunuch; his wisdom by the evenness of his conduct in the indescribable variety of circumstances that attended the whole of his life, by which he wrought regularity among things that were discordant. His eloquence of speech is displayed in his interpretation of the dreams, in his affability in ordinary conversation, and by the persuasion that followed his words; in consequence of which his subjects all obeyed him cheerfully and voluntarily rather than from any compulsion.” – Philo
Late-Inning Questions: What does Joseph’s last request say about him and his priorities? Do the things we desire after death reflect our values in life? Can we trust those who live after us to carry our wishes out?
On-Deck at Emanu-El: It’s a pleasure to host high-schoolers from the Seaboard (mid-Atlantic) region this weekend. They will take a large part in leading our services this Shabbat, and we invite you to be with us to experience the ruach that only USY can bring.
The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of how we wish to be remembered, Ted Williams famously said that the only thing he ever really wanted was for people who passed him on the street to say, “There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.” More than 15 years after his death, we’d probably still say it.