The exodus from Egypt took place on the 15th day of Nissan, which is the first day of Pesach.

The Torah relates that when the Jews left Mitzraim — Egypt — “Vayikach Moshe et atzmut Yosef imo” — “Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.” The pasuk goes on to say that he did this because “He had firmly adjured the Children of Israel, saying Hashem will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here with you.” Rashi derives from the word “itchem” — “with you” — that the bones of the tribes were also taken out of Egypt.

If so, why is it emphasized that Moshe took the bones of Yosef?

The Gemarah (Sotah 13a) says that only Moshe took Yosef’s remains because all the people were busy gathering the valuables of the Egyptians, a temptation Moshe ignored.

But the question is now twofold: Firstly, according to the Gemara, it is to be assumed that not only were the remains of Yosef neglected, but also of all the tribes, so why did Moshe only take the remains of Yosef? Secondly, the bizat hayam — collecting the booty — lasted only one day — the seventh day of the departure from Egypt. Undoubtedly, from the eighth day on and for the entire forty years of sojourn in the wilderness, the Jewish people cared for the remains of Yosef as well as for all the remains of the tribes. So what is the reason that Torah emphasizes that “Moshe took with him the atzmot Yosef”?

In the writings of my father, Harav Hagaon Shmuel Pesach z”l Bogomilsky, I found a beautiful explanation, which I am sharing now.

In the Gemara (Sotah 13a) there is a dispute as to where Yosef was buried. According to one opinion he was interred in the crypt where the Kings of Egypt are buried, and according to another opinion he was buried in the Nile river. Yosef was definitely one of the greatest personalities of his time. It would be logical to assume that his burial place was a national monument; How, then, is it possible for such diverse opinions as to where he was buried?

The name “Yosef” can refer to the Jewish people. As the Psalmist says, “O Shepherd of Israel (Hashem), You who leads Yosef (the Jewish people) like a flock” (80:2). Since Yosef provided for his brothers and their families throughout the years of the Egyptian famine, all of Jacob’s descendants who survived by Yosef’s benevolence are called by his name (Rashi).

The views expressed in the Gemara can be explained as a metaphor for the survival of the Jewish people throughout the galut: The issue is this: what is the source of strength of the Jewish people? What secret power is “buried” within them that helps them endure and survive all the persecutions they encounter throughout their lengthy exile?

One opinion is that it is due to the “crypt of Kings” — their political connections to the highest officials in government. Fortunately, often the intelligence, wisdom, and contribution for the betterment of the country made by members of the Jewish people has been recognized, gaining them access to government. In turn, these individuals used their influence on behalf of their brothers.

Another view claims that their source of strength is the “Nile river” — a body of water completely separate from the land. This symbolizes that the Jewish people have nothing to do with the inhabitants of the country in which they dwell. Their absolute detachment and isolation from Egyptian society helped preserve their identity and ultimately enabled them to survive the alien forces which sought their destruction.

In reality, both views are correct. Even when the Jew rises in government circles and in the eyes of its leaders, he must always remember to maintain his identity and his unique Jewish spirituality. This was actually “Atzmut Yosef” (lit. the bones) — the “essence” of Yosef, and the philosophy he embodied. Moshe “carried” this legacy and imparted it to Klal Yisrael.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, let the atzmot Yosef — the essence of Yosef — his fundamental quality and the message of his lifestyle and history, always be the model for you to emulate. Regardless of the accomplishments you may achieve, never should it compromise your dedication to Hashem and Torah. Always be a loyal and dedicated son of Klal Yisrael materially and spiritually.


A short time after the Jewish people witnessed the magnificent Divine revelation at the sea and its miraculous splitting, Amalek, the arch enemy of the Jewish people launched an unprovoked sneak attack against them. The Torah relates “Vayavo Amalek vayilachem im Yisrael b’Rephidim” — “Amalek came and he battled Israel in Rephidim” (17:8).

By mentioning the name of the place of the confrontation, commentaries say that Torah is alluding to the reason for the attack. Mechilta on Shemot interprets the word “Rephidim” as a contraction of “rafu yedeihem min haTorah” — “they weakened (loosened) their hands from the Torah.”

The way the Mechilta expresses itself is somewhat difficult. Torah is a Divine knowledge. It requires diligent and assiduous study. To comprehend it, one must apply his head, which is the seat of the human intellect — the brain. There is no way possible to study Torah with one’s hands. (Yes, at times people make motions with their hands and thumbs while discussing Torah, but for actual study applying the head is imperative.)

In light of the above, should it not have said “rafu rosham min haTorah” — “they loosened (weakened) their head from Torah study,” in lieu of “rafu yedeihem — “they loosened their hands”?

The Gemara (Kiddushin) 40b says Talmud gadol shehatalmud meivi lidei ma’aseh” — “The study of Torah is important, because the study of Torah brings one to performance of mitzvot.” And our sages (Avot 1:17) have said, “Lo hamidrash ha’ikar ela hama’aseh” — “Study is not the essential thing, practice is.”

True, a person uses his head and applies his intellect to study Torah, but actual performance is done primarily with the hands. Hence, the ultimate Jew is one who studies Torah and performs. He puts into actual practice the Torah knowledge acquired through study.

Hence, the Mechilta is saying that the reason for the Amalek attack was because “rafu yedeihem min haTorah” — they studied Torah but were lacking in actual performance. In other words, there was Midrash — study — without ma’aseh practice.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, the actual nation of Amalek has ceased to exist. There are, however, other Amaleks in different shapes and forms. A major Amalek that will be comforting you is your Yeitzer Hara — Evil Inclination. One of his primary goals will be an endeavor to get you detached from Hashem. The word “mitz­vah” means “attachment” (see HaYom Yom 8 Cheshvan). By doing mitzvot one becomes attached to Hashem. The Yeitzer Hara will exert himself to “rafu yedeichem min haTorah” — that the attach­ment between your learning and actual performance should be weakened, and ultimately be non-existent. Be on guard and beware of him. Listen to your Yeitzer Tov — Good Inclination — and send your Yeitzer Hara flying and keep him at a distance.

Hatzlachah Rabbah — much success in this mission.