True Kindness by Dovid Gottesman


In this week's Parashah, Yaakov asks his son Yosef to do him a “Chesed VeEmet,” “a kindness and a truth” (BeReishit 47:29), and make sure he is not buried in Mitzrayim. The common question posed on this Pasuk is what a “true” Chesed means, but another question can be asked. Yosef is Yaakov’s son. Yaakov raises him and teaches him. Why does Yaakov need to ask Yosef for a Chesed? Doesn’t Yosef owe it to his father because his duties of simple Kibbud Av? Furthermore, why are the other great acts that Yosef does for Yaakov’s family, such as saving them from famine and providing them with royal treatment, not called Chesed VeEmet? Why is only Yaakov’s burial outside of Mitzrayim referred to as Chesed VeEmet?

Rav Moshe Epstein answers that although any act of Chesed that one does for another person deserves thanks, it cannot be called a “true” Chesed, because one does not know the long-term ramifications of the deed. There could be potentially negative results from that Chesed. However, when one does Chesed for Hashem’s sake, he can be certain that the ramifications are all good, and only then it is Chesed VeEmet.

An example of a plain Chesed is the deed that Yosef does for the house of Yaakov. Granted, saving them from the famine is a tremendous act of kindness, but in the long run, Bnei Yisrael are enslaved for 210 years by the Egyptians. The act itself is certainly good, but its long-term effects are not. By performing the Chesed VeEmet of burying Yaakov in Me’arat HaMachpeilah, Yaakov avoids the possibility of being embalmed by the idolatrous Mitzriyim.

Yosef also planted in the minds of Bnei Yisrael the concepts of Techiyat HaMeitim, resurrection of the dead. According to Rashi, Yaakov does not want to roll to Eretz Yisrael to be revived, and because Yaakov knows that even in death, his Neshamah will be aware that his body would turn into Kinim when that Makah strikes Mitzrayim. This explains our first question as well:  Chesed VeEmet is not brought about because of Kibbud Av, but rather because this is an action from which only good things emerge. Hopefully, we can continue Yosef’s tradition of doing Chesed for Hashem’s sake.

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