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Don’t ever underestimate the value of even small gestures! God takes everything into consideration.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Vayechi (Genesis 47:28–50:26) and in it we read about the passing of Jacob. Before Jacob died, he made his children promise that they would take him to be buried in Israel, in Hebron, in the Cave of Machpelah where his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham were buried.

And so it was. Jacob died and the procession, consisting of his children made it’s way to Hebron. Also accompanying the procession was a large delegation of Egyptian dignitaries.

This was both in honor of Jacob, who was recognized by all as being a holy person, as well as to show respect for Joseph who was the governor of Egypt and responsible for saving Egypt during the year of the famine. It was a very large procession, as it says, “So Joseph went up to bury his father and with him were all the officials of Pharaoh, the senior members of his court and all of Egypt’s dignitaries, together with all of Joseph’s household, his brothers and his father’s household … Chariots and horsemen went up with him too, it was a very large procession.” (Genesis 50:7-9)

Before arriving in Hebron the procession stopped in a place called “Goren Ha’atad” (whose exact identification remains unknown but is subject to fascinating debate among scholars), where a seven-day mourning period was held. This may very well be the earliest source for the “shiva” the seven day mourning period that Jews observe upon the death of a close relative.

We are told that curious Canaanite onlookers saw the crowd and came to inquire what the gathering was all about. Believe it or not, when the Canaanites were told that it was a funeral procession for a holy man they deiced to pay their respects!

According to one account, they “undid the buckles on their belts and robes” while according to another they “opened their buttons.” Yet others say that the Canaanites simply stood round and joined the crowd. Whatever it was, it was their way of paying respect to someone who was clearly a holy man having earned the respect of both the Jews and Egyptians.

As we know, the Canaanites were evil and immoral people. Nevertheless, we are told that they were rewarded by being saved from death for this simple act act of “undoing a button” or maybe even just standing around. Our sages teach us that from here we learn that even a small gesture can earn a person tremendous rewards.

Furthermore, if evil people like the Canaanites earn tremendous reward for a small mitzvah, how much more will good people be rewarded?

The message: Don’t ever underestimate the value of even small gestures! God takes everything into consideration.

For more on this week’s Torah portion from Rabbi Ari Enkin, click below.








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