Jacob said to Joseph that he wanted him to perform "kindness and truth" with him; (Gen. 47:27) he described the kindness as a "true kindness" because in performing a deed of this nature to one departed, there can be no expectation of recompense to the giver.

Many people raise the point that Joseph had already received his reward for this kindness before he actually performed it. Had not his father promised that Ephraim and Menasseh, Joseph's two sons, would each inherit a slice of the land of Israel, just like Jacob's own sons? So how can we speak about an "act of kindness" based on truth. Not only that, Jacob gave special blessings to Joseph's children (something that is not recorded as having happened with his other grandsons); he also allocated the city of Shechem as belonging to the tribal territory of Joseph. In view of all this, how can one speak about a totally altruistic act of kindness?

The author quotes an anonymous source in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak of Orleans: When Jacob said: "And you performed kindness with me", he had in mind that the act of kindness he requested from Joseph would be an act of true kindness if performed for other deceased people. The author finds it difficult to credit this explanation since if this was all that Jacob had in mind, he would not have had to elaborate that much. The author therefore follows a different approach, as we shall see. Jacob made sure that Joseph should acquire the merit of performing an act of kindness that was totally altruistic…

At the time Jacob made his request that Joseph bury him in the Land of Israel, he did not hold out any promise of reward for Joseph when he requested his promise to bury him in Israel. Neither did Jacob use the opportunity to apologize for burying Joseph's mother in the middle of nowhere instead of with his, Jacob's ancestors. By his withholding any promises or apologies Jacob made sure that Joseph should acquire the merit of performing an act of kindness that was totally altruistic.

Once Joseph had promised his father to bury him in the Land of Israel, and had sworn an oath concerning this (on a different occasion, as attested to by the words "It was after these events" (Gen. 48:1)), Jacob did explain why he had buried Rachel where he did, and that Joseph would inherit in the Land of Israel as if he had been his firstborn son, etc. All of this occurred after Jacob had been taken ill. The son can confer merits on his father…

We must try and understand why Jacob was so concerned about his burial that he made Joseph swear an oath. Actually Jacob had two reasons, both stemming from similar considerations. Firstly, Jacob wanted to acquire the merit in Heaven of having performed such an act of pure altruism, as we will explain in more detail later. This is why he turned to his favorite son, the one who was the most like him. We have explained repeatedly that Joseph was the image of his father in character, in historical significance, etc. We have a tradition that the son can confer merits on his father, whereas the father cannot do the same thing in reverse. (Sanhedrin 104)

The second reason stems from the fact that, as we have explained elsewhere, Jacob, Joseph and the brothers are the mystical dimension of the sefirot in the Celestial Regions. Jacob is a mystical dimension of the sefira of tiferet, the domain of the ineffable four-lettered Name of G‑d. The Twelve Tribes represent the twelve ways that this name can be spelled. When the Torah wrote "And these are the descendants of Jacob, Joseph", the latter was equated with the former. We will come back to this later. Jacob…became his own reincarnation…

The words "And you performed kindness with me" mean that by your performing an act of true kindness with me you will cause me to acquire the merit of a truly performed act of kindness in the Celestial Regions. By adding the words "with me", Jacob intimated that between them they could complete the structure of the sefirot in its fullest sense. Jacob conveyed to Joseph that whereas he, Jacob, was the essence of that structure of the sefirot, Joseph was its extension. The existence of such an extension enables the root of this structure to be placed in a still higher region in the sefirot than it had started out from. It is in those regions that "kindness of truth" has its roots. We will still explain all this.

In my commentary on parashat Vayishlach, I have already explained at length the meaning of the statement that "Jacob did not die" and how Jacob's "death" occurred when he received the news abut Joseph's disappearance, and how his soul was restored when he received the news that Joseph was alive and well. He thus became his own reincarnation. That reincarnation was no longer subject to physical death. "Death" happened only to the part of the Jacob-Israel personality known as "Israel". This is the deeper meaning of the verse "The death of the person called 'Israel' drew near…" (Gen. 47:29)

The spiritual part of Jacob's Nefesh called "Israel", was on a higher level than the spiritual part of the Nefesh called "Jacob". Jacob's request to Joseph to perform "kindness of truth" emanated from his "Israel" aspect. The words "with me" emphasized that he was speaking in his capacity as "Israel".

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]