At the beginning of this week's parsha, Yakov Avinu calls Yosef over to prepare for when he passes away. Yakov wanted to ensure that Yosef buries him, not in Mitzrayim, rather in Eretz Yisroel. Yakov asked Yosef to not only give him his word that Yosef would bury him in Eretz Yisroel, but insisted that Yosef swear to him that he would do so.
Yosef was an extremely devoted and loyal son, tremendous Tzaddik, and had a deep personal attachment to Yakov. Why would Yakov insist on Yosef swearing that he would fulfill his father's final request?
Yakov knew that it would be very difficult for Yosef to actually take him out of Mitzrayim for burial. Yakov was concerned, not that Yosef would be negligent or unreliable in carrying out this mission, but rather that due to the difficulty of the task he may come to rationalize some other approach other than exactly what Yakov wanted. By raising the stakes for Yosef (he swore that he would do as his father requested!) Yakov was able to more fully ensure that he would in fact be brought out of Mitzrayim and buried in Eretz Yisroel.
There are at least 2 lessons that we can learn from this:
- In order to clarify precisely what is the right way to proceed, it helps to increase the gravity of the issue at hand. If my mistaken judgement leads to me losing $1, I will make a more casual decision than if my mistaken judgment leads to me losing $10,000. The increased stakes helps to clear away a lot of the confusion and rationalizations that I tell myself.
- If we are trying to accomplish something we need to fully fully ensure that it is going to be successfully executed. The nature of people is to be lazy and not push themselves to the degree they are able to in order 'see the job through.' Hashem wants us to do our utmost in carrying out our responsibilities. Doing so helps to perfect and better our character.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer