Why did Yosef not make his children swear to bury him in Eretz Yisrael immediately?
(13.19) “And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him, because he (Yosef) made the Children of Yisrael swear, saying: G-d will surely remember you, and you will bring up my bones from here with you.”
R. Yonason Eibeshitz writes that Rashi explains that the double expression of swearing means that Yosef made his sons swear that they in turn would make their descendants swear (to bring his bones to Eretz Yisrael). Rashi then asks why Yosef did not make his sons swear to bring his bones to Eretz Yisrael immediately like Ya’akov made Yosef swear to do, and gives an answer. Everyone asks why Rashi only asks the question after he explains the double expression of swearing - why did he not ask the question independently of this explanation?
We can answer this question by first examining the gemora in Sotah 13b, which asks on the posuk in Yehoshua 24:32 “and the bones of Yosef which the Children of Yisrael brought up they buried in Shechem” - why did they bury him specifically in Shechem? The gemora answers that since they stole him from Shechem, they returned him to Shechem.
The gemora then points out an apparent contradiction between the posuk in Yehoshua which says that the Children of Yisrael brought the bones without mentioning Moshe’s involvement - implying that they were the only ones who were involved in bringing the bones, and our posuk which clearly states that Moshe brought out the bones! The gemora answers that if one starts doing a mitzvah but does not complete it and someone else comes along and completes it, the Torah attributes the mitzvah to the one who completes it.
There is a difficulty with this gemora - why does it first ask about the end of the posuk in Yehoshua (why was Yosef buried in Shechem) and then ask about the beginning of the posuk (why does the posuk not mention Moshe’s involvement)? Why does it not ask the questions in the order of the posuk?
We can resolve this problem by considering an alternative reason why they buried Yosef in Shechem, because otherwise they would have to wait fourteen years until they finished conquering and dividing up the land in order to know where the portion of Yosef was located so that that Tzaddik would not be buried in a portion which was not his. But they could bury him in Shechem immediately because Ya’akov had already given it as a present to Yosef, as it says “I have given to you Shechem” (Bereishis 48:22).
But if the reason for choosing Shechem was in order to bury him quickly, he could have also been buried in the land of Sichon and Og which had already been allocated to half the tribe of Menashe. We could suggest that Yosef wanted to buried in Eretz Yisrael itself because Eretz Yisrael is more holy than the land on the other side of the Jordan, but there is a proof against this suggestion from the gemora in Sotah that we brought above which asked why the posuk in Yehoshua does not mention Moshe’s involvement and answered that since he did not complete the mitzvah it is not called by his name. If so, it is clear that the other side of the Jordan was fitting for the burial of Yosef and so since Moshe could have completed Yosef’s burial but did not do so, Moshe’s name is not associated with it. Because if Moshe could not have buried him there because he needed to be buried in Eretz Yisrael itself, what could he have done - since he did not cross the Jordan there is no reason to penalize him and take his name away from the mitzvah.
This is the why the gemora in Sotah answers that the reason why Yosef was buried specifically in Shechem was because they stole him from Shechem and so they returned him to Shechem. Because if the reason was in order to bury him quickly he could have been buried in the half portion of Menashe. But perhaps the half portion of Menashe was not fitting for the burial of Yosef because it was not as holy as Eretz Yisrael, and thus Shechem was chosen only because he could be buried there immediately?
To counter this challenge the gemora points out the apparent contradiction between the two posukim and has to resolve the contradiction by saying that since Moshe did not complete the mitzvah his name is not associated with it. And since if Moshe could not have buried him he would not have been penalized it is clear that the other side of the Jordan was fitting for the burial of Yosef. Therefore, since he was not buried there but in Shechem, perforce the reason must be because they stole him from Shechem and so they returned him there.
Now, there is a dispute in Bava Basra 123a about the meaning of the posuk in Bereishis 48:22 that we brought above “I have given to you שכם אחד more than your brothers” - one opinion says that it means “I have given you Shechem, one (piece of land) more than your brothers” and one opinion says that it means “I have given you one portion more than your brothers”, the extra portion of the firstborn. The Ramban there explains that their dispute depends on whether or not Eretz Yisrael was already ours from the time of the forefathers. The one who says that it means Shechem holds that it was already ours from the time of the forefathers and so Ya’akov could give it to Yosef as a present, but the other one holds that it was not already ours from the time of the forefathers, and therefore the posuk must be referring to the extra portion of the firstborn.
Another piece of information that we need to bring in here is that the poskim teach that a person cannot impose an oath on his grandchildren. But the commentaries ask on this ruling from Avrohom who said “swear to me here by G-d that you will not deal falsely with me or my son or my grandson” (Bereishis 21:23). They answered that since Yisrael already belonged to Avrohom he was able to impose this oath upon them.
Now we understand why Rashi did not ask why Yosef did not make his sons swear to bury him immediately because maybe they could not have buried him in Eretz Yisrael since it did not belong to them yet. But after Rashi explained that Yosef made them swear to make their children swear and since generally a person cannot impose an oath on his grandchildren, it must be that Yosef held that Eretz Yisrael was already theirs and thus was able to impose this oath upon them like we find by Avrohom. If so, the posuk in Bereishis means that Ya’akov gave Shechem to Yosef as a gift, and so Rashi rightly asks why Yosef did not make them swear to bring his bones to Eretz Yisrael immediately since they could bury him in Shechem.