Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking Care of One's Parents

In this week's Parsha, we have the description of Yaakov's death bed. Yaakov requests to be buried in Israel and not Egypt. He also reveals the important character traits of all of his children. However, I want to focus on something that is mentioned in the beginning of this week's Parsha. It says (Genesis 47:28):

כח וַיְחִי יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, שְׁבַע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה; וַיְהִי יְמֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵי חַיָּיו--שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, וְאַרְבָּעִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה.
28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were a hundred forty and seven years.

We also learned a few Week's ago in Parshas Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1) that Yosef was Seventeen when he was sold by the brothers:

ב אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם.
2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being still a lad even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their father.

Why is it significant that Yosef was 17 years old when the brothers sold him and why is it important that Yaakov dwelled in Egypt for 17 years? The Torah does not tell us the other brothers' ages, nor does it tell us how long they dwelled in Egypt, why specify Yosef and Yaakov?

The Chizkuni tells us (Found here upper right) that this verse, that Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years, is to tell us the greatness of Yosef because he supported his father and all of his household for 17 years, just like his father had supported him when he raised Yosef for 17 years.

This idea is very important for people to understand. The Torah is telling us that a parent raises their child while they are young. The parents love them, care for them and feed them. All in all, they make sure their needs are met. This is the parents' responsibility and obligation. However, when the parent grows old and needs to be taken care of, it is the child's obligation to care for the parent. This is what these verses are trying to teach us, that it is not only the parent's responsibility to care for the child, but the child is equally responsible for the care of his or her elderly parent.

A parent cares for his or her child in order that the child is given the opportunity to live their life. A child needs to be cared for and looked after in order that, when they can care for themselves, they are filled with morality and positive character traits. However, a child cares for a parent in order that their parent can live out their days in peace and tranquility. Yaakov instilled within Yosef the ability to withstand and overcome all the tests that were thrown at him. If Yaakov did not raise Yosef in the correct manner in those first 17 years of his life then Yosef would not have succeeded and reached the level of grandeur that he achieved. On the other hand, Yosef allowed Yaakov, in his old age, to live in peace and tranquility. Yaakov passed away with peace of mind because he knew that Yosef could and would take care of his every need. That is why Yaakov specifically called Yosef and asked him, not anyone else, to make sure he was buried in Israel with his forefathers.

No comments: