Yaakov’s Final Journey Home by Rabbi Benny Berlin

The Torah describes the brothers’ journey from Mitzrayim to bring the body of Yaakov back to Chevron to its final place of rest. The pesukim in perek 50 (pesukim 7-14) provide a lot of detail about this journey.

There are three questions on these pesukim that need to be addressed.

The pesukim describe that Yoseph and his family and the servants of Pharaoh went together with chariots and soldiers to escort the coffin of Yaakov. We would think that if the goal was to bring Yaakov to
Ma’aras Hamachpeila they should go straight from Egypt in the southwest to Chevron. But the pesukim describe that they went to a place called “Goren Ha’atad” and that this place is “b’ever haYarden,” on the
other side of the Jordan River.

1. How did the mourners end up any place near the Jordan? Chevron is not near the Jordan.
Rashi says that the place was called Goren Ha’atad because of a situation that arose there.

When the mourning procession arrived at this place, they were greeted by a hostile army of Canaanim and Yishmaelim who wanted to wage war against them. But when they saw the crown of Yoseph on the
coffin, they said, “This is a great mourning for Egypt,” and they placed their crowns on the coffin out of respect.

2. Why did these armies come out to fight in the first place and why is it that when they saw that, “This is a great mourning for Egypt” they lay down their arms?
In pesukim 12 and 13 it is revealed that Yaakov planned details of his funeral. Rashi spells out those details.
Yaakov wanted his funeral procession to resemble the future camp of Israel.
Three shevatim were positioned at each of the four sides of the coffin just like the future aron kodesh would have three shevatim at each side.

3. What does this add to the story of the procession?
Rabbi Kallas suggests that this is an example of ma’aseh avos siman lebanim. The Ramban in Lech Lecha (12:6) explains that whatever happens to the avos is a siman, a forewarning of what will occur in
the future to their children, the B’nei Yisrael. History occurs in cycles and repeats itself.

Instead of going back to Chevron directly, the brothers and their entourage were sent on a route that would be imitated by B’nei Yisrael. When the Jews left Egypt and subsequently sinned in the desert, they
ended up entering Eretz Yisrael in an indirect approach, through the Jordan River. Why did the Canaanim and Yishmaelim come out to fight them? Rashi in Vayishlach (34:30) says that the Canaanim had a
tradition that at some point they would lose their land to the children of Yaakov. They were not ready to give it up without a fight. Now they see a great camp, chariots, soldiers and the children of Yaakov in the
form of an encampment (the same formation of the future army of Israel), all coming into Eretz Yisrael after they spent some time in Egypt. Of course, we do not know how much detail the tradition of the
Canaanim had. Could they also have known that the invasion would be from the east?

What calmed their fears? When they saw the crown of Yosef, the viceroy of Egypt, on the coffin they realized this is not the army of Israel invading. The time of conquest had not yet arrived.

This was an Egyptian event. They knew that it was the independent nation of B’nei Yisrael that was their problem. They gave honor to the procession and put down their arms.