In a previous post, we discussed the Gemara in Sotah that talks about Yosef and his brothers going up to Eretz Yisroel to bury Yakov Avinu. The gemara describes how the children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah all come out to battle the children of Yakov. When they saw Yosef’s crown which he had placed on the casket of Yakov, they immediately took off their own crowns, and also hung them from Yakov’s casket. We explained that the crown represents the Torah of Moshiach, the transcendental aspect that Moshiach brings down into the world. The children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah come with their own ideologies, their own versions of spirituality, but in the end take off their crowns and acknowledge that Yosef’s crown is the highest.
One of the questions I left unanswered was, What is the significance of Yakov’s casket? Why is it specifically on his casket that all these crowns were hung?
As I was reading a piece from R’ Chaim Friedlander on this week’s parsha, the words of our Chazal came into clear focus.
In speaking of the story of the rocks that gathered under Yakov Avinu’s head, Rav Friedlander searches for a deeper understanding of the hidden depths of meaning contained within it. What are Chazal coming to teach us when they said that the rocks wanted Yakov to rest his head on them? Why specifically the head of Yakov? What is it coming to teach us when it says that all the rocks were formed into a single rock?
Rav Friedlander explains that the concept that Chazal are trying to bring out is that Yakov Avinu’s main role in the world was one of יחוד – bringing about unity. What this really means is that Yakov was able to find opportunities to serve Hashem in every circumstance he found himself. The entire world was at his disposal for his avodas Hashem. Thus, all the world was unified in this concept.
The rocks wanted to be placed under his head because they would then be used by the tzaddik in his service of Hashem (as he brings from the Ramchal). They joined into one rock, representing the fact that ultimately everthing is joined in unity in this concept of serving Hashem.
He brings the story that when Yakov was on his deathbed, he was about to reveal the קץ, when his Ruach Hakodesh left him suddenly. He looked up and questioned his sons if there was someone who was not on the level to receive this information. They responded and said שמע ישראל ה’ אלוקינו ה’ אחד – Hear us, Yisroel, Hashem our Elokim, Hashem is One. He was questioning if they were completely dedicated in every aspect of their lives to their service of Hashem. Their response was that they indeed were.
End quote of Rav Friedlander.
We see some very interesting things here. First point – Why is it that this whole story happens right when Yakov is about to reveal the keitz? Why does he specifically question their complete dedication to avodas Hashem when he can’t reveal it?
It seems clear that Chazal are hinting to the fact that the entire purpose of the keitz – the times of Moshiach – is to completely involve ourselves in the service of Hashem. Not only that, but it will be clear that every single thing in creation is for that purpose. Thus, when Yakov was unable to reveal the keitz, he naturally assumed that perhaps one of his children was not completely dedicated to the concept of the times of Moshiach, and this was preventing him from giving over that information. To this they responded that indeed they were in tune with that concept.
What comes out of this is that the core concept that describes Yakov is the concept of the keitz itself and the times of Moshiach – the unity of all in the service of Hashem. Now we understand why Yosef’s crown was hung upon Yakov’s casket. Yakov’s casket represents the perfection that he achieved when his life was complete, a perfection of the concept of unity. Yosef, who represents Moshiach ben Yosef, is the one who users in the age of this perfect understanding of the unity of creation in the service of Hashem. This is his crown – his spiritual path – which is hung upon the casket of Yakov. As long as the nations of the world retain their crowns upon their heads – retain their own spiritual paths – there is a lack of unity in the service of Hashem. When they remove their crowns in deference to Moshiach ben Yosef and place them upon the casket of Yakov, they show that ultimately there is only one way to serve Hashem, and that is by recognizing that every single thing in creation is in existence solely for this purpose.