But as for me, when I traveled from Padan, Rachel died on me in the land of Canaan on the road, while there was still some amount of land to go to Efras; and I buried her there on the road in Efras, which is Beis Lechem.
– B’reishis 48:7
Yaakov Avinu spent the last 17 years of his life in Mitzrayim. For the first time in many, many years, he lived in peace and tranquility; and in that state, he finishes off his stay on this planet. Near the very end of his days, he calls in his beloved son Yosef to make an impassioned request: “Please do not bury me in Mitzrayim.”
Rashi tells us that after this event, when Yaakov felt that he had little time left, he blesses the children of Yosef: “When your mother Rachel died, I buried her on the road.” Rashi explains that Yaakov has a specific reason to mention that fact now, of all times, as this might be his final address to his son.
And then he said to Yosef, “I know that for many years you had a complaint against me: When your mother died, why didn’t I bring her to a city to be buried? Why did I bury her literally on the side of the road? You should know that I was commanded by Hashem to do this for the sake of the Jewish Nation. When N’vuzar’adan will be exiling the Jews, they will pass by this road. Rachel will cry out with bitter weeping, for Hashem to have mercy. Those cries alone will save the people. Not the entreats of the Avos, not the begging of the Imahos, only her voice calling out will move Hashem to mercy. I buried her there because Hashem told me to do that for the sake of klal Yisrael. I had to do it. I know that for many years you had bad feelings against me.”
The Sifsei Chachamim explains why: “I am not the bearer of bad tidings. There will be many bad events and much suffering that will face the Jewish Nation. I have to tell you about them – but only when I have to, not a moment sooner.”
Yosef was not a fragile youth who would fall apart if he heard bad news. He was a mature, sophisticated talmid chacham; his role at the time was leader of all of Mitzrayim. He wasn’t going to fall apart at the sound of some bad news. And Yaakov knew that eventually he was going to have to tell him anyway. Why not just tell him now, and eliminate the bad feelings that Yosef felt towards his father?
The Sensitivity of a Tzadik
The answer to this question is that Yaakov Avinu was extraordinarily guarded in what he said. Every word was measured, every expression weighed. Never did a stray word come out of his mouth. He had a policy: I am not the bearer of bad tidings. If I tell you why I buried your mother on the road, I will have to tell you why. The why has to do with the fact that the Jewish Nation will be sent into exile, and she will be there, on the road to beg mercy for them. That is bad news. That is troubling news. I have a policy that I am not the bearer of bad tidings. When you have to hear the bad news, I will tell you, but not before.
The Discretion of the Man
The sensitivity of a tzadik and the discretion of the man means, “I can’t cause you pain. I can’t be the one to break the news to you and cause you to suffer any earlier than I have to. I would rather shoulder the blame for something that I didn’t do, and have my beloved son have false claims against me, than to bring him pain.”
This is a powerful example of discretion of a man watching his every word and every expression.
Born and bred in Kew Gardens Hills, R’ Ben Tzion Shafier joined the Choftez Chaim Yeshiva after high school. Shortly thereafter he got married and moved with his new family to Rochester, where he remained in for 12 years. R’ Shafier then moved to Monsey, NY, where he was a Rebbe in the new Chofetz Chaim branch there for three years. Upon the Rosh Yeshiva’s request, he stopped teaching to devote his time to running Tiferes Bnei Torah. R” Shafier, a happily married father of six children, currently resides in Monsey.