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Remarks Shabbos Chazak

Saturday, 22 December, 2018 - 10:52 pm


Joseph passes away, is embalmed and placed in a coffin in the land of Egypt. THE END

The Rebbe points out that at first glance it would seem that the conclusion of the book of Bereishis is an exception to the rule of thumb that books of Torah conclude on a positive note, as Joseph's death positions the Hebrews of Egypt for an imminent enslavement-- they have just lost all political firepower in the palace.

On second (and deeper) glance a positive emerges ( fyi: even those who have studied the Rebbe's weltanschauung semi-seriously expect a positive to emerge).

Here's the positive: For the duration of two centuries plus, a broken Jewish slave could take solace and comfort with knowledge that the very body and holy soul of Joseph was present in the exile with him, and could pour out her/his soul to G-d with confidence that they had not been forgotten.

At the Exodus Joseph's bones are definitely not forgotten and are eventually relocated to Israel. (His pious mother Rachel is another story. Til this very day her tomb is off the beaten path as a symbol of her selflessness. As the sages teach, she preferred to be buried there as she prophesied that the Jewish exiles would pass that particular location in shackles on the journey to Babylon. She then made a bold decision to waive her right to her rightful spot in the tomb of patriarchs alongside her beloved husband Jacob, instead she chose a final location - until the redemption arrives- in wait for that particular moment when her despondent descendants would pass by in tears and could enjoy a very brief reprieve of prayer, comfort and hope during their bitter ordeal.)

Which leads me to something as profound (imho) and current.

The Talmud teaches (Ketubot 111:1) that it is preferable to be interred in Israel as "Burial in the holy land is comparable to burial beneath the very temple altar", in the diaspora, the grave of choice has typically been in close proximity to a pious Torah scholar; for a Chabad Chassid in the US, it is of paramount importance to secure a plot in NY's Old Montefiore Cemetery in the hallowed shadows of the Rebbe's mausoleum, the Ohel- "Kotel of the diaspora". That is, until recently.

Before their untimely passing, Rabbis & Shluchim of the Rebbe, Avrohom Levetansky and Yehoshua Gordon made their wishes known to be interred in the local cemetery near their congregations in California. In lieu of returning to their native habitat in New York, where they no doubt would have received a "ten gun salute" for decades of putting every last cell and pigment of skin in the game in service of their respective communities, they chose to stay. Their tombstones stand proudly under a palm tree in Commerce City, California, a testament to these heroes of spirit, dedicated in life and thereafter to the holy mission entrusted to them by the Rebbe and to their flock, inspiring us to rededicate ourselves, emulating this selflessness in service of our families, friends and communities in good health. In conclusion, let us proclaim the traditional refrain recited upon the conclusion of a Torah book, חזק חזק ונתחזק Be Strong! Be Strong! Let us be emboldened! Good Shabbos. Photo Credit: Eli Gordon. 

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