How could Ya’akov be buried next his forefathers?
(47,30) “I will lie with my forefathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt, and you shall bury me in their grave.”
The expressions “I will lie” and “you shall bury me” seem to be a needless repetition. But we can explain it according to what Chazal teach in the gemora, that just like we do not bury a wicked person next to a righteous person, so too we do not bury a complete Tzaddik next to a lesser Tzaddik, as we find many times in the gemora concerning the burial caves of Tzaddikim and Chasidim. According to this, how could Ya’akov say “I will lie with my forefathers”, since it says in the Midrash that Ya’akov was the choicest of the Patriarchs, and we do not bury a great Tzaddik next to lesser Tzaddikim.
But we can answer that it says in the Midrash that Hashem said to Ya’akov: By your life, you will lie down but you will not die. If so, since Ya’akov did not die but the other Patriarchs did, and Chazal teach that Tzaddikim are greater when they are dead than they are when they are alive, then Ya’akov was equal to the other Patriarchs, because they died and became greater, whereas he is alive and remains as he is.
This then is the explanation of the posuk: “I will lie with my forefathers”, that is, I will lie down but not die, and therefore “you shall bury me in their grave”.
How did seeing Yosef’s children set to rest Ya’akov’s fear that Yosef had committed adultery?
(48,11) “And Yisrael said to Yosef: I had not expected to see your face, and behold, G-d has shown me also your children.”
We can explain this posuk according to the gemora in Sotah which says that one who has relations with a married woman, his face turns a sickly yellowish hue. Therefore, Ya’akov said “I had not expected to see your face”, with a healthy colour, because I was concerned perhaps you had stumbled in the sin of adultery.
But the gemora in Shabbos 110b gives the recipe for a drink which cures this sallow complexion, and so perhaps you drank a cup of this medicine. Concerning this he said “and behold, G-d has shown me also your children”, because the gemora also mentions that this drink causes sterility. Thus I see that you did not stumble and sin.
How do we know that Ya’akov did not die?
(49,33) “And Ya’akov…expired, and was gathered in to his people.”
It says in the gemora in Ta’anis 5b that Ya’akov Avinu did not die, and learns this from a posuk which makes a comparison between Ya’akov and his offspring - just like his offspring are alive, so too Ya’akov is alive.
There are many obvious questions that can be asked on this gemora, but we can explain it according to the gemora in Bava Basra 115b, that says we continue searching for a person’s heirs all the way back to Reuven (for example). The gemora asks why, if we do not find someone from the family of Reuven, we should not continue our search back to Ya’akov, and it answers that it is unneccesary to suggest this, because we have a tradition that none of the tribes have ceased to exist.
Now, it says in the Midrash that Ya’akov was given a sign, that if one of sons should die in his lifetime, he would then inherit Gehinnom. G-d forbid. The gemora means if one of Ya’akov's sons should die without leaving behind surviving offspring. But as long as his sons leave behind offspring and thus the tribe continues to exist, he is assured that he will not inherit Gehinnom.
This is the explanation of the gemora in Ta’anis, that Ya’akov is compared to his offspring, and just like his offspring, that is, at least one descendant from each tribe, are certainly still alive - because we have a traditon that none of the tribes have ceased to exist - so too Ya’akov is guarateed not to have died. Because this is what Hashem promised Ya’akov, that in his lifetime not one of the twelve tribes will perish. Thus the gemora learns from this that Ya’akov did not die.
If Ya’akov did not die, how could they bury him?
(49,33) “And Ya’akov…expired, and was gathered in to his people.”
It says in the gemora in Ta’anis 5b that Ya’akov Avinu did not die. The gemora asks was it for nothing then that they embalmed him? It answered that we learn this from a posuk which makes a comparison between Ya’akov and his offspring - just like his offspring are alive, so too Ya’akov is alive.
This gemora is difficult to understand, because the question still stands - was it for nothing that they embalmed him? How could they bury him alive? Also difficult are the words of Tosafos there, that this is also implied from the fact that it says “and he expired”, and not "and he died". What point is Tosafos making?
In order to answer this, let us first preface what is written in the gemora in Bava Basra 116a, on the posuk in Melachim Ⅰ 11;21 “and Hadad heard in Egypt that Dovid lay with his forefathers, and that Yoav, the commander of the army, had died”. Why does it mention lying down by Dovid, and dying by Yoav. Because Dovid left behind offspring like himself, it says lying down, but since Yoav did not leave behind offspring like himself, it says that he died.
If so, we can explain that this is the meaning of the gemora which says that Ya’akov Avinu did not die. But how is it possible to say that that he did not die when we see that they embalmed him. The gemora answers that he is compared to his offspring, that is, that he and his offspring are comparable, that he left behind offspring like himself. Thus, in truth, Ya’akov did die, but because he left behind offspring like himself, we say that Ya’akov is called not dead.
According to this the meaning of Tosafos is clear: Tosafos understood the words of the gemora as we explained, that Ya’akov is not dead because he is compared to his offspring, means that he and his offspring are comparable. But they had a question - from where does the gemora know this? They answered that it is implied from the fact that it writes “he expired” and not "he died", and thus we can can learn from this the same that was learned about Dovid in Bava Basra, that he left behind offspring like himself, and the gemora was basing its teaching here on what had already been taught there.
Why did Yosef die before his brothers?
(50,26) “And Yosef died at the age of one hundred and ten years.”
The sefer Chizkuni asks why Yosef died before his brothers, and answers that it was because he embalmed his father. This is astonishing - why should he be punished for this? Surely this is an honour that is done for kings!
But there are two reasons why Dovid HaMelech lived only seventy years. The first is that Adam HaRishon gave him seventy years from his own life as a gift. The second is because the lives of Ya’akov and Yosef were shortened, that is, they died before reaching the number of years that their fathers had lived, and these missing years total seventy and were given to Dovid.
But this depends on whether we say that Ya’akov died or not. If we say that he did not die, then why did Yosef die before his time? It cannot be because he gave from his years to Dovid to make up the seventy years, because Ya’akov did not die. And behold, in the gemora asks that if we say that Ya’akov did not die, was it for nothing that they embalmed him?
We now understand very well the words of the Chizkuni, because the gemora asks that if we say that Ya’akov did not die, was it for nothing that they embalmed him. Thus, since Yosef embalmed his father, it is clear that he held that Ya’akov died. If so, he also needs to die before he reaches the years of his father in order to complete the seventy years that Dovid needs. Hence the Chizkuni taught that Yosef died before his brothers because he embalmed his father.