The significance of being buried in Israel

In Parshat Vayigash we learn that seventy souls moved down to Egypt (Goshen) as immigrants. They acquired property, were fruitful and increased greatly.

It seems like B’nai Yisrael (Yaakov’s children) did very well in Egypt. They adjusted to their new surroundings and even became wealthy.

Despite what may have sounded like good news, in Parshat Vayechi Yaakov was worried about too much of a good thing. He was afraid that his descendents would become so prosperous in galut (the Diaspora) that they would lose their connection to the Land of Israel.

When Yaakov gave Yosef the blessing that God had blessed him with in Luz, he added two extra words: that the Land of Israel would be given for an “everlasting possession.”

Nehama Leibowitz points out that “Yaakov deliberately added those words as a significant antidote to his children’s acclimatization and acquiring holdings in the land of Egypt. This was as if to say that the foothold they had acquired in Egypt was illusory; their permanent holding was the land promised to them by God.”

In order to ensure that they would remain connected to the Land of Israel, immediately before his death, Yaakov imposed upon his children the importance of being buried in the Land of Israel.

According to Nechama Leibowitz, “Yaakov did not want to be buried in Egypt in order to preclude his children from (permanently) settling there.”

B’nai Yisrael honored their father’s wishes and buried Yaakov in the Land of Israel.

When Moshe and B’nei Yisrael left Egypt, they took Yosef’s bones and he was eventually buried in the Land of Israel as well.

What about Yaakov’s other children? Where were they buried?

Ramban (Breisheet 34:12) quotes the Mechilta (Shmot 13:19) which states that B’nai Yisrael brought up Dinah’s bones together with the bones of her brothers-  all of the tribes to be buried in the Land of Israel.

Throughout Jewish history there have been Jews from around the world who requested to be buried in Israel. Yet the ideal should be to connect with Israel while we are still alive and ensure that Israel remains the everlasting possession of the Jewish people.