In the closing days of his life, our Patriarch Yaakov (Jacob) commanded
Yosef (Joseph) not to inter him in Egypt. He made Yosef swear that he will
be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Chevron. He then offered Yosef's
two sons and all of his own sons blessings that guide and define the future
of each of the Twelve Tribes. After the blessings and Yaakov's subsequent
demise, there was a 70 day mourning period, followed by a huge procession
that brought Yaakov to his final resting place in the Holy Land.
At the time of Yaakov's death, "when Yaakov finished instructing his sons,
he drew his feet onto the bed, he expired and was gathered to his people."
(Beraishis/Genesis 49:33) What is the significance of Yaakov drawing his
Three weeks ago we read, "Yaakov settled in the land of his father's
sojourning." (37:1) Rashi quoted the Midrash which contrasted the settling
of Yaakov - which implies permanence - and the sojourn of his father
Yitzchak (Isaac) - which appears to be temporary. The Midrash inferred that
after his long exile and struggles with Lavan, "Yaakov wished to finally
settle down in tranquility, but the anguish of Yosef's kidnapping pounced
Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr (1910-1979; Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Mesivta Torah Vodaath
in Brooklyn, New York; described as the first American trained gadol)
expounded that Yaakov was being taught the preciousness of life. Every
moment of life has its purpose, granted for the sake of accomplishment.
Yaakov thought he had done so much in his life - and he had - and he could
now "relax" and focus his time on his relationship with the Creator. But G-d
had other plans; there was still much to accomplish. Yaakov, as long as he
lived, needed to serve as the Father of the Jewish nation, preparing his
children to lead the future generations. Yaakov was being taught how a
servant of G-d must continue to "plant the seeds" throughout all the days of
The Talmud (Eruvin 65a) related a similar anecdote. Rav Chisda was asked by
his daughter, "You look exhausted, why don't you sleep a little?" to which
he responded, "The day will come when I have plenty of opportunity to sleep
(after my passing)." We were put in this world to accomplish, not to relax.
Our Father, Yaakov, had already inculcated this lesson. Homiletically, we
understand he reemphasized it in his final mortal act. Only at that last
moment in life did Yaakov "draw his feet onto the bed." Only then, the
moment before death, did he lift his feet off the ground and recline.
Rest and relaxation are tools used toward an end, not ends in themselves.
Life is the opportunity to bring oneself and others closer to G-d and every
moment must be utilized toward achieving that goal.