[When the Jewish people left Egypt,] Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for [Joseph] had adjured the children of Israel, saying: "G‑d will deliver you, and you will bring up my bones from here with you." (Ex. 13:9)

As you know, our sages tell us that when Pharaoh told the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you," Joseph required them to circumcise themselves. (Gen. 41:55)

After storing up food during the seven years of plenty, the Egyptians found that when the years of famine began, it had all rotted. They went to Pharaoh, who advised them to go to Joseph and ask him for food. Joseph told them that he would distribute food to them only if they circumcised themselves. Pharaoh advised the Egyptians to comply with his demand, for "he [evidently] decreed that the produce should rot; what happens if he decrees that we should die?"

[In so doing] he converted a number of souls and [therefore] circumcised them. These were the "mixed multitude" that left Egypt with the Jewish people.

When the Jews left Egypt, "a mixed multitude also left with them". (Ex. 12:38) These were converts from a number of peoples - including Egyptians. (See Rashi's commentary on this verse.)

Moses also wanted to accept them and take them in under the wings of the Shechinah.

See Rashi's commentary on Ex. 32:7.

Therefore, since Joseph began this deed and was the first one to convert them to Judaism, [it is appropriate that] Moses took him [Joseph] with him [personally].

In the Talmud Sota (13a), the Sages point out, "Whereas all the [other] Jews were occupied with the spoil [of Egypt], Moses occupied himself with the commandments," i.e. with fulfilling Joseph's wish to be exhumed and taken to the holy land. The Arizal gives a thematic explanation of why this was so.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.