SALT - Thursday, 13 Shevat 5777 - February 9, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

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This shiur is dedicated in memory of
Miriam Heller z"l
whose yahrzeit falls on the seventh of Shvat,
by her niece, Vivian Singer.
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            We read towards the beginning of Parashat Beshalach (13:19) that at the time Benei Yisrael left Egypt, Moshe took with him Yosef’s remains.  This fulfilled the promise that Yosef’s brothers had made to him before his death, that they would bring his remains out of Egypt for burial in Eretz Yisrael.

            The Mekhilta, commenting on this verse, tells that Yosef’s remains were carried in an ark alongside the ark of the covenant, which contained the tablets given to Moshe at Sinai.  When passersby saw the two arks, the Mekhilta relates, Benei Yisrael would tell them that one contained the remains of a deceased person and the other contains the law of the living God.  They would explain that it was appropriate for these two arks to be transported side by side, because the person carried in one ark observed the law carried in the other ark.

            The image of Benei Yisrael transporting the aron has been viewed as symbolic of the need to “transport” the Torah through every station of life and of history.  On the individual level, this means applying the Torah’s values and laws at every stage of our lives and under all the various circumstances that we encounter.  Torah is relevant and binding at all times and in all situations, and we must therefore “carry” it with us and have it inform our decisions, our speech and our conduct wherever we find ourselves.  On a national level, we must bring the Torah with us into every era and every stage of history.  The Torah is as relevant now as it was in antiquity, and we therefore continue “carrying” it with us even in our times, as we address the unique conditions and challenges that arise in our modern-day circumstances.

            With this in mind, we can perhaps more fully appreciate the significance of Yosef’s remains being transported alongside the ark of the covenant.  Yosef exemplifies the ideal of “transporting” Torah, of bringing Torah values with us wherever we go, to every situation we face.  Yosef was uprooted from his home and sent to a foreign land with a foreign culture and foreign values.  And yet, despite finding himself very far from his home environment, Yosef remained faithful to his family’s values and traditions.  Even in Egypt, and even when he came under enormous pressure to betray his ideals, he steadfastly adhered to the beliefs, teachings and morals of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.  Yosef thus embodies the concept of “transporting” the aron, the need to bring Torah values with us wherever we go.  And so it was indeed appropriate specifically for him to be carried alongside the aron in the wilderness, as he set for us the example we must follow of carrying Torah with us at all times, to all the many different sets of circumstances we will confront over the course of our lives.