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Jacob's Last Jouney

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

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At the very ripe old age of 147, our patriarch Jacob died in Egypt, surrounded by all his children. His beloved son Joseph was at' his bedside, as also Joseph's two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, together with the patriarch's all other grandchildren.

In the last 17 years of his life, which Jacob had spent in Egypt, he became known and beloved by all Egypt. And now that he died, he was sadly mourned by all. A period of grief and mourning throughout Egypt was proclaimed for seventy days, as though one day for each member of Jacob's family. When this period of mourning ended, the funeral procession began.

The hearse in which Jacob's body was laid was borne shoulder high by the twelve tribes of Israel in the order which Jacob had requested: Judah, Issachar and Zebulun facing east; Reuben, Simeon and Gad on the south; Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin on the west; and Dan, Asher and Naphtali on the north. In this order the tribes of Israel were also to march many years later on their way to the Promised Land. Behind the hearse followed Levi and Joseph, and Joseph's crown lay on top of the hearse. Behind them folowed members of the royal family of Pharaoh, princes and nobles and common people, in a procession that seemed to have no end.

Rebeckah's prophecy was fulfilled, for both Jacob and Esau were buried on the same day
On the border of Canaan, 31 Canaanite kings were waiting to pay homage to the patriarch. Seeing Jospeh's crown on the hearse, they placed theirs, too, alongside. A memorial service was held in which great tribute was paid to Jacob. Esau too, came from Mount Seir to attend the funeral of his brother.

Finally the procession reached Hebron and halted at the Cave of Machpelah. But here a tragic occurrence happened which seemed for a time to disrupt the solemnity of the moment. Esau refused to let Jacob be laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah, claiming that it was his. Jacob's children knew that the Cave of Machpelah was their inheritance when Esau had sold to Jacob his birthright and all claims to the land of Canaan, and that the deed was in Joseph's possession. But in the ensuing fight between Esau's men and Jacob's mourners, forty of Esau's men fell. In the meantime, Jacob's hearse stood by the side, guarded by Jacob's grandsons, among them Chushim, Dan's only son. Chushim was a deaf mute and did not know what all the trouble was about. When it was finaly explained to him, he grabbed a weapon and swung it across Esau's head. The mighty blow severed the head, which rolled into the Cave of Machpelah. Esau's men then took the headless body of their leader, and carried it back with them to Seir. Thus, Rebeckah's prophecy1 was fulfilled, for both Jacob and Esau were buried on the same day.

Jacob was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah, and after Shivah (seven days' mourning), Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt where they had left their small children and all their possessions in the land of Goshen.

Our father Jacob died in the year 2255 after the Creation. After his name Israel, the symbol of the highest human attainment we, his children, are called the Children of Israel, or Israelites, and our holy land is called the Land of Israel, and we proclaim morning and evening, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One."

From Talks and Tales, by Kehot Publication Society. Available at www.kehotonline.com
 

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Sotah 13a based on Genesis 27:45

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Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Esau
Rogue son of Patriarch Isaac and Matriarch Rebecca. Elder twin of Patriarch Jacob.
Canaan
The land which G-d promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Named after the Tribe of Canaanites who dwelt there at the time. Eventually, when the Israelites conquered the land in 1272 BCE, it was renamed the "Land of Israel."
Judah
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
Joseph
Firstborn son of Rachel and Jacob. Because he was Jacob's favorite son, his brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery He ended up in Egypt where he became viceroy of the land, and eventually brought his entire family to Egypt. Died in 1451 BCE.
Levi
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.