The verse recording the funeral of Jacob states, "his sons carried the casket...." (Gen. 50:13) In fact, only ten of Jacob's sons actually did the carrying. Levi did not do so because in the future, the Levites would carry the Holy Ark; Joseph did not carry the casket, because he was a king. Joseph's sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, replaced Joseph and Levi, and therefore it was as if Joseph and Levi did carry. (Bamidbar Rabba 2:8) Levi and Joseph…were above the whole concept of exile…

It is hard to understand why these reasons prevented Joseph and Levi from carrying the casket, particularly Levi. After all, it would not be Levi himself who would carry the Ark in future, but rather his descendents. And if, nevertheless, carrying a casket is an impediment to carry the Holy Ark, how could Moses, himself a Levite, carry the casket of Joseph when the Jewish people left Egypt? There must be a deeper reason here.

While Jacob lived in Egypt, the exile could not begin. Jacob's passing and his funeral were a step towards the beginning of the Egyptian exile. Levi and Joseph couldn't participate in this exile-causing event because, in their essence, they were above the whole concept of exile.

As long as Joseph lived, "The forced labor of Egypt was not upon them [i.e. the Jews]". (Shemot Rabba 1:4) This is the meaning of Joseph being a king - he ruled over Egypt rather than being ruled by Egypt. Joseph's rule prevented the exile. Also, Levi prevented the exile from beginning since as long as one of the tribal heads lived, the exile was delayed, and Levi died last. Even when the slavery did begin, the Levites were exempt from labor since they were studying Torah. All of this shows that Levi was also above the exile. These traits of Manasseh and Ephraim are inherent within us…

But if Joseph and Levi were above the exile, why was it necessary to send Manasseh and Ephraim in their places? The reason is that each of them embodied a trait needed to survive the exile. The name "Manasseh" comes from the word "nashani", meaning "to forget" (i.e. that Joseph had forgotten his father's home that he so longed for) - referring to the desire to return to Israel (Gen. 41:51). The name "Ephraim" comes from "hafarani", meaning to be successful (that even though Joseph was in amoral Egypt he was physically and spiritually successful) - demonstrating the strength to transform darkness to light. The beginning of the exile, the funeral of Jacob, had to be countered with these two strengths through which the Jewish people would overcome the exile, and arrive whole at the Redemption.

These traits of "Manasseh" and "Ephraim" are inherent within us. We feel the desire and thirst for redemption, and simultaneously we do not allow the darkness of the exile to influence us. Rather we can transform the spiritual dark into light. Through this we will conquer this exile and merit to the true and complete redemption with Mashiach. (Shulchan Shabbat)

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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