"For I will lie down with my fathers and you shall transport me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb. He ( Yosef) said, I personally will do as you have said. And He ( Yaakov) said (to Yosef), Swear to me, and he swore to him and Yaakov bowed to the head of the bed. "
Yaakov felt that his life was ebbing away and so he called his son, Yosef, the viceroy of Egypt, to swear to him that he would bury him in Israel when he passed away. Among other reasons that Rashi mentions, Yaakov did not want the Egyptians to deify him and worship his tomb.
The question though is why Yaakov would make his son swear to him after Yosef had already agreed to bury him in Israel? The Ramban explains that Yaakov did not suspect that his righteous and beloved son, Yosef, would disregard his wishes; he only asked him to swear that in case Pharaoh would not let Yosef take his father out of the country for burial, Yosef could then tell him that he swore to his father to do this. Realizing the severity of breaking ones promise, Pharaoh would then allow Yosef to fulfill his oath. The Ramban then adds another reason for the oath; that it would spur Yosef on to try harder to meet his father's request.
Rav Henoch Leibowitz, of blessed memory says that from the Ramban, it seems that if not for Yosef swearing to his father, it is possible that he might not try as hard to bury him in Israel.
How could this be asks Rabbi Leibowitz? Can we entertain the possibility that Yosef HaTzadik, the righteous Yosef, might be lax in honoring his father's dying wishes? Didn't we see much earlier that when Yaakov asked Yosef to see how his brothers were doing in Shechem, that he went without hesitation even though he knew that his brothers disliked him and might harm him? Would we expect Yosef to desist this time, especially being his father's last request?
So the question again is why the necessity to have Yosef swear?
Rav Leibowitz answers that Yaakov made him swear in case Yosef would not be able to carry out his father's wishes; perhaps he would be under duress and not have the ability to overcome the obstacles. By making him swear, Yaakov knew that Yosef would in some way, find the abilities to make it happen. He would somehow in some way summon up a superhuman fortitude to get the job done. Rav Leibowitz said that from here we can see that an extra dose of inspiration and motivation can give a person new abilities that he didn't have before.
This can help us explain a Medrash in Megillas Rus that says a person should always do a mitzvah with a complete heart and brings three examples. If Reuven would have known that the Torah would write about his action that he saved Yosef from death from the brother hands, he would have put him on his shoulders and returned him back to his father. Had Aaron known that the Torah would later write about him that he would personally greet Moshe in the desert on Moshe's return to Egypt, Aaron would have greeted him with musical instruments, and had Boaz known that the Megillah would write about him that he gave Rus parched grain, he would have given her fatten calves to eat.
It seems that these three people didn't do their mitzvah in a complete way, and yet we never see any criticism about them, only praise. Based on what we are saying though, they actually did the best they could with the abilities they had and so there was nothing to fault them for. However, had they known that they would be written about; they would have been inspired and would have found within themselves new abilities that would have led to more exalted actions.
Rav Leibowitz says that we see from here that a person can always grow in inspiration and motivation and secondly, that a person can gain new abilities and strengths as a byproduct of being inspired and stirred. It is empowering to realize that the sky is the limit as we resume our life journey into 2015.