VaYchi: True Kindness

Yaakov (Jacob), close to the time of his death, makes an impassioned request to his son Yoseph (Joseph): “If now I have found favor in your sight… deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt” (Genesis 47:29). While fulfilling Yaakov’s request would certainly constitute a kindness, why does Yaakov ask Yoseph to deal with him “kindly and truly“? What does truth have to do with this? When one performs an act of kindness, one often holds on to an expectation that that act deserves a kindness in turn at some later point. This expectation, however, diminishes the purity of the act of kindness. True kindness means conferring a benefit with no expectation of repayment whatsoever. Therefore, the kindness one pays to the dead, through, for example, burial, constitutes true kindness, since one can expect no compensation from one who lies in eternal slumber. For this reason, Yaakov identifies the kindness Yoseph will show him after his death as dealing with him “kindly and truly.” Moreover, by performing acts of true kindness, one emulates God, Who, in His Infinity, confers unending benefits upon us (including, of course, our very existence!), but, since God lacks nothing, also receives nothing in return for this unfathomable ongoing kindness. May this recognition of God’s infinite love for us serve as motivation for us to love Him in turn, and emulate His ways by increasing acts of unconditional kindness in the world.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas VaYchi

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