The Pasuk describes that as the Jews exited Mitzrayim, “VaYikach Moshe Et Atzmot Yosef Imo Ki Hashbei’a Hishbi’a Et Bnei Yisrael LeiMor Pakod Yifkod Elokim Etchem, VeHa’alitem Et Atzmotai MiZeh Itchem” “Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him, because he [Yosef] made the Bnei Yisrael swear that when Hashem would remember the Jewish people, the Jewish people would take Yosef’s bones with them” (Shemot 13:19).
On the surface, this may not seem like such a big deal; after all, just a few Parshiyot earlier in Parashat VaYechi (BeReshit 50:24), the Pasuk clearly states that immediately before he died, Yosef made the Jewish people swear that when they leave Egypt, they should take his bones with him. However, although we read that Parashah only four weeks ago, it occurs more than 200 years earlier than BeShalach. So it is no small accomplishment that Moshe knew that Yosef had requested to be brought out of Egypt.
The Midrash Tanchuma on this pasuk asks, “Minayin Yodeah Moshe Heichan Yosef Kavur?” “How did Moshe know where Yosef was buried?” and then answers, “Serach bat Asher,” meaning, there was a Mesorah (tradition) transmitted that Moshe knew that Yosef requested to leave Egypt, and Serach knew how to find his grave.
It takes much foresight and awesome faith in Hashem on the part of Yosef to insist that some day in the future, when Hashem would redeem the Jews and they would exit Egypt and return to the Eretz Yisrael, that they would take his bones with them.
This idea can further be demonstrated in an appropriate story that is presented in the Gemara (Ta’anit 23a), about Choni HaMe’ageil. One day, Choni was traveling on the road and he saw an elderly man planting a carob tree. Choni said to the man, “How many years does it take for this tree to bear fruit?” The man answered that it would take seventy years. Choni responded, “Is it clear to you that you will still be alive in seventy years?” The man answered, “I found this world containing full-grown carob trees, so too I plant them for my children.”
The story continues: Choni sat down to ate bread, became drowsy, and slept for 70 years. When he arose, he saw a man picking the fruit from the carob tree and he asked the man if he was the same one who planted the tree. The man answered, “No, I am his grandson.”
This coming Wednesday we will be celebrating Tu BeShvat , The New Year for the trees. Often, the most benefit obtained by the planting of a tree will not be to the person who planted it, but rather to the generations after him. It takes a person with the ability to appreciate the importance of investment in the future to be able to plant a tree. Even more is this idea realized when we choose to plant a tree in Israel for the future of the Jewish Nation to benefit.
So too, Yosef saw the importance of investing in the future and made the Bnei Yisrael promise to remove his bones from Egypt and bring them to Eretz Yisrael. Although we don’t know Yosef’s reasons for wanting to be buried in Israel, we see that Yosef, too, had an investment in the future in the land of Israel.