The Torah relates that before our forefather Yaacov died, he called in his sons to confer a blessing on every one of them. Yaacov also took this opportunity to reprove the children who had acted in ways he did not approve.
Our Sages tell us that Yaacov, as well as our leaders Moshe and King David, specifically waited until they were close to their death to offer rebuke so that those who needed to be reprimanded would not have to feel uncomfortable in their presence for long.
Based on this, our Sages advise that the prescribed, opportune and effective time for one to censure a child is before one’s passing.
The Torah tells us that when Yaacov fell ill, he instructed his son Yosef to bury him in Israel alongside his wife Leah, his parents and grandparents. Shortly afterwards he called in his sons for their blessings.
Our Sages in the Medrash teach us that up until Yaacov became old, people would die without warning. All it would take was a sneeze and the person would pass on. In fact, that is why, up until today, when one sneezes, we respond with a blessing for good health and life.
When Yaacov was on in years, he prayed to G-d that one should become ill prior to one’s death to serve as a notice that the person should begin setting his affairs in place. Yaacov passed away at the age of 147 and his bier was escorted to Israel by his children and a huge contingent of Egyptians. He was buried in Chevron in the Cave of Machpaila. All of Yaacov’s family returned to Egypt.
At the end of the Parsha, the Torah relates that prior to Yosef’s passing he instructed his family that when the Jews would be redeemed from Egypt his remains should be taken with them to be buried in Israel in the city of Shechem. Yosef also gave them a code that, in the future, the redeemer (Moshe) would pronounce to indicate that he was the true leader and redeemer. Yosef died at the age of 110, and he was the first of the tribal brothers to die.
This week’s Haftorah speaks of King David, who when he was close to death, charged his son Solomon – who was only twelve years old – to have the fortitude of a man. He then commanded Solomon to uphold all of G-d’s laws and that this would be the key to his and his descendants’ success.
The Talmud relates, that King David in the Psalms, asked G-d when he would die. G-d responded that He never informs His creations of their exact time. David then asked G-d to at least tell him which day of the week he would die. G-d told him he would die on a Shabbos.
David asked G-d if it was possible to wait until after Shabbos. G-d told him that it can’t, because at that point it is predestined that Solomon should rise to the throne, and two kingdoms cannot overlap.
King David then asked G-d if he could die on Friday. G-d responded, “One day of your life is more precious to Me then a thousand sacrifices Shlomo will offer.”
Realizing that Shabbos was his destined day of death, from then on, David would be engrossed in Torah study without pause throughout the entire Shabbos. Due to the protective nature of Torah study, the angel of death was unable to take his life.
Frustrated, the angel of death hid in trees in the palatial garden and began to shake and sway the trees causing a stir. David heard noise coming from the garden and went to check it out. While descending the steps, one of them gave way and David lost his footing. He lost his concentration on Torah for the moment, and he died at the age of seventy.
The Zohar – Kaballah teaches us that Yosef, Moshe and King David all died on Shabbos afternoon at the time when the Mincha prayer is recited. These three great ones encompassed special virtues. Moshe was the greatest prophet, Yosef is known as the Tzadik – the righteous one, and David represented the Jewish Monarchy.
A few days ago, while studying the Daf Yomi – page a day of Talmud – The Talmud relates that King David didn’t sleep much and that he was already up at midnight immersing himself in Torah, song and praise to the Almighty.
King David was extremely pious and humble. Even as a busy king, he was accessible to all to pose their Halachic questions. He had great prowess in Jewish law, and he issued rulings. His piety was such that upon reaching a decision on Jewish law he would run it by a younger scholar and would not be deterred or affronted if he was told that he ruled incorrectly. His rulings had nothing to do with his ego, rather that the Emes – truth of Torah be reached – that was the imperative.
The Talmud tells us that because of King David’s altruistic conduct, G-d saw that he merit having a son by the name of Cilav whose precise Torah scholarship topped all.
The Medrash relates to us that G-d gave us the holy day of Shabbos as a day off so that we could focus on Torah study without being distracted by the daily grind.
Torah is our greatest source of protection and it is the only proven method to keep Jewish continuity alive and well!