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The Elbalming of Yakov

Written by Rabbi Rudman, 17/12/2018

 The Embalming of Yakov

When Yakov is Niftar, Yosef has him embalmed. In general, embalming is counter to the idea that the body needs to decompose to remove the sin of Adam, which is known as עטיו של נחש, the remnant of the sin of the snake. That is why in Shemoneh Esreh we say, first ממית the death ,blossom then מחיה the true life without the sin of the snake. Why here is Yakov different?

The צרור המור says that Yakov is different than everyone else. Yakov the Gemarra says never dies, just as his children live, and even all the שבטים will always remain, so too Yakov lives on. A way of expressing this is that Yakov’s body will physically remain.

The שפתתי כהן (from the Gurei Ha’Ariz”l) adds to this that everyone else even the other Avos, are included in the Pasuk in Koheles, everyone came from the earth and returns to the earth. But Yakov is the epitome of Adam before the sin who even though comes from the earth lifts the earth up. If so why did Yakov needs the embalming is since he was niftar in Chutz L’Aratez he needs to return Eretz Yisroel complete. And that is the forty days of embalming. The only other place this word Chanita is used is in Shir HaShirim to refer to blossoming. That is what is taking place here, to allow Yakov’s body to blossom to its completeness in Eretz Yisroel.

But the Midrash writes that Yosef is punished for doing this? Maybe one can answer based on the way the Mesilos Yesharim explains Yosef’s sin. “He embalmed his father without the permission of HaShem.” It wasn’t inherently wrong. Yosef’s calculation was correct. But he should have asked. I heard from my Rosh HaYeshiva ZT”L when Yakov chastises Shimon and Levi is not that they were wrong, but that they should have asked him.

[Yosef being embalmed was done by the Egyptians and is a different discussion. ]

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