For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"When the time approached for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "If I have now found favor in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with loving-kindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt." (Gen. 47:29)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "When the time approached for Israel to die"
Everyone of whom it is stated [that his days] drew near to die, did not attain the life span of his forefathers. [Isaac lived 180 years, and Jacob lived only 147 years. In connection with David, the expression of drawing near is mentioned. (I Kings 2:1) [His father lived 400 years, and he lived only 70.]

G‑d told David: 'You have composed 147 psalms, just like the years of Jacob's life...'

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "When the time approached for Israel to die" ... "The time approached" also appears regarding David: "The time approached for David to die." The Midrash says that G‑d told David: 'You have composed 147 psalms, just like the years of Jacob's life. You will merit to be like him. Just as Jacob and his son reigned at the same time, so too regarding you, your son Solomon will reign during your lifetime."

Also, this indicates that just as Jacob did not reach the age of his father so too David did not reach the age of his father.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ramban: "When the time approached for Israel to die"
This means he called his son Joseph during the last year of his life, for he felt exhaustion and undue weakness, although he was not sick. Nonetheless, he knew he would not live much longer, so he called Joseph. Now after Joseph returned to Egypt after visiting Jacob in Goshen, he was informed [that Jacob had fallen ill], so he brought with him his 2 sons so Jacob could bless them.

Ohr HaChayim: Ramban said that Jacob knew this [that the time had drew near for him to die] from a loss of vital signs in his body. I do not think we can accept his idea, for we know of many people who continue to live for many years after old age sets in and they begin to feel weak. Jacob might have had an indication that his death was close at hand because Zohar (I:217) says that 30 days before death a person's Tzelem/image is removed from him, as RaShBi saw with R. Yitzhak.

Although such knowledge is withheld from ordinary folk, the righteous do become aware of this and other spiritual matters, as well. Also the word in the verse says, "the days of Israel to die approached" and when do we say days are "approaching"?

The Arizal said that the souls have been divided up into numerous sparks of sanctity that inhabit human beings on their various appearances on earth. The length of time a person lives is directly related to how many of these sparks of sanctity, known as Tzelem. inhabit his body. Every day such a person performs mitzvot one of these sparks is enhanced, strengthening a person's Tzelem. Every day he doesn't, the Tzelem is weakened.

So according to the Arizal, the various parts of Jacob's soul which used to ascend nightly were now gathered together for a final journey to heaven. Jacob could "feel" that this was happening and thus he called for Joseph to come and see him.

When the time approaches for a man, it is proclaimed in the world for thirty days.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Vayechi 217:
"When the time approached for Israel to die": Rabbi Yosi said: When the time approaches for a man, it is proclaimed in the world for thirty days. Even the birds in the sky proclaim it, and if he is righteous, it is proclaimed for thirty days among the righteous in the Garden of Eden.

We have learned that all these thirty days, the soul ascends from him each night to go up and look at its place in that world, yet the man does not know, nor cares, nor has control over his soul during these thirty days like before, as it is written: "There is no man who has power over the spirit to retain the spirit". (Eccl. 8:8) Rabbi Yehuda said: At the beginning of the thirty days, the man's shadow is darkened, and the shape is not seen upon the ground.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
The Ohr HaChaim quotes the Holy Zohar concerning the "supernal newspaper" story anticipating the earthly death of an individual. There are spiritual signs predicting a physical cause. Now that Jacob's prophetic mantle was back on, he knew that his time Below was soon to be over.

But wait! Rabbi Yitzhak says that Jacob never died! (Taanit 5b) However, Rabbi Nachman retorts, "How could Jacob not have died? The Torah says that the people eulogized him, embalmed him, and buried him." Rabbi Yitzhak answers by quoting the verse which compares Jacob to his children: just as his children are alive, so, too, he must be alive.

But how does Rabbi Yitzhak's response address the fact that the Torah describes Jacob's burial?!

The Keli Yakar (Gen. 47:29) explains Rabbi Yitzhak's statement is based on the principle that "Tzadikim are called alive even in their deaths, and the wicked are called dead even when they are alive". (See Gen. 18a-b) so too, even though Jacob died, he was considered still alive by the Talmud because he was a Tzadik.

...children are considered a continuation of their father as long as they are alive...

The Talmud specifically refers to Jacob, not Abraham or Isaac, because he was a Tzadik and all of his children were Tzadikim as well (in contrast to Abraham and Isaac, who each had a son who was not a Tzadik). This is the intention of Rashi (in Gen. 18:19) when he says that one who dies and leaves behind a child who is a Tzadik is considered alive. Since children are considered a continuation of their father as long as they are alive, their father is considered alive as well. If, however, one's child is wicked, his father is not considered still alive because "the wicked are called dead even when they are alive."

Indeed, Rabbi Yitzhak derives his teaching from the verse which compares Jacob to his children. Jacob is considered alive because he lives on through his children; we the Children of Israel are all Tzadikim, as Isaiah said: "Your people also all are all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, wherein I glory." (Is. 60:21)

Jacob's physical body died, according to the verse in the Torah, and was preserved/mummified by the Egyptians and buried in the Land of Israel: "Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. And the physicians embalmed Israel." (Gen. 50:1-15) Nevertheless, he, like King David, certainly lives forever in us, his descendants, the nation of Israel. Hai Hai VeKayam!

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