Dvar Torah: Parshat Vayechi
This coming shabbat, we’ll be reading Parshat Vayechi- the closing Parsha of the book of Bereshit, and the last of the seven Parshahs describing the life of Yakov.
Shortly before Yakov’s death, he makes a final request to his son Yosef. Yaakov requests that after his death, his body should be transferred to the gravesite of his ancestors. As he says, “Do me a kindness and a truth: please do not bury me in Egypt.”
Rashi provides us with some insight into the language used by Yaakov in the passuk-”a kindness and a truth.” He explains that the only true kindness is a kindness done for the dead, as nothing can be expected from them in return.
The Midrash relates that when G‑d desired to create man, a heated argument took place in the heavens. Truth argued that “he should not be created, for he is full of lies.” On the other hand, kindness argued that “He should be created, for he is full of kindness.”
To this, Truth might have replied: “But that, too, is just another of man’s lies. Yes, man does acts of kindness to his fellows, but not because he is ‘full of kindness’—only because he expects them to be kind to him in return.”
However, there is only one act of kindness that can prove Truth wrong: the kindness bestowed upon the dead. This “kindness and truth,” as the passuk calls it, displays that man is capable of a truly altruistic deed. That man is capable of bestowing kindness upon others without expecting anything in return. This idea is one that we can all apply to our personal lives.
Oftentimes, we tend to look at our treatment of others like a mathematical calculation. We help out others simply so that they’ll return the favor. This pasuk teaches us that this mindset is flawed. Rather, we must treat others well, regardless of the potential benefits that we can reap from those good deeds. Only then can we truly achieve true kindness.