Vayechi- End of Days

Toward the end of his life, Yakov gathered his sons together and began to speak, saying, “I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days” (Gen 49:1).  However, in the very next verse, the Torah tells us that Yakov gathered his sons and began to bless them.  What happened between the two times that Yakov apparently called his sons (the Torah would not have mentioned it twice if it only occurred once), such that after calling them for the second time, he did not reveal the end of days as originally intended, but rather blessed his sons?

Rashi says that Yakov “wanted to reveal the date of redemption, but the shechina departed from him and he began to speak about other things.”  Why does not Rashi suffice by simply saying that this secret of the end of days was “hidden” from Yakov?  If it had to do with divine revelation, we see that Yakov was not lacking it, because immediately afterward, he began to bless his sons with prophetic blessings.

The Hebrew language has at least three words which it uses to denote verbal communication.  There is to “talk” (ledaber), to “say” (lomar), and to “speak” (lehagid), among others.  To “talk” implies merely that one is uttering words in a superficial manner, without dedicating much thought or feeling to the words. To “say” implies that the person is expressing their heart, communicating emotionally.  Finally, to “speak” implies use of the intellect; the person who is speaking is delivering intellectual content and using his mind as well as his heart.  When Yakov first mentioned his desire to reveal the date of redemption to his sons (in Gen 49:1 above), he used the word lehagid, “to speak.”  From the Zohar, we know that this word is used when one wants to reveal the deepest secrets of the Torah – and from this Rashi deduced that Yakov intended to reveal the date of redemption to his sons.

So, why did he not do so in the end?  It turns out that it was not Yakov who was the obstacle.  He did know the secret.  However, the shechina was unable to dwell in the presence of his sons, two of whom (Efraim and Menashe) were to bring later generations of idol worshippers to the world.  So, the ability to reveal the secret “left” Yakov, but not the secret itself.  But if so, one might ask, why tell the story at all?

To this, we have an answer from the example of Moshe Rabeinu, who sought to enter the land of Israel.  He sought to do so because he wished to impart his own level of spirituality (which involved “seeing” and not merely “hearing” or understanding Godliness) to the rest of the Jews.  Had Moshe entered the land of Israel, the Jews would have had a much more natural and easy time of grasping Godliness, by simply seeing it in front of their eyes, as did Moshe himself.  But, since Moshe was not allowed to enter the land, the most he could do was to impart his spiritual ability to “see” Godliness from afar.  We Jews can “see” Godliness in our mind’s eye, but not with our naked eye, and that is because Moshe himself was unable to enter Israel but only to “view” it from afar. Before he passed away, Moshe called the Jews and said to them “Come and hear, Israel…”  He was unable to impart eyesight of spirituality, but instead he shared his intellectual insight (hearing), which was so keen that it could lead to “seeing” in the mind’s eye.

Something similar occurred with Yakov at the end of his life.  It is known that Yakov and Moshe’s lives were parallel in a spiritual sense.  At the end of his life, Yakov said to his sons, “Gather together and hear…” (Gen 49:2).   That is, although he wished to impart to them far higher spiritual levels (including revelation of the date of redemption), for reasons beyond his own control, Yakov could only impart the level of “hearing.”  This is the nature of serving God that has accompanied the Jews throughout the exile – the ability to meditate and “hear” Godliness and thereby come to intellectual awareness of God.  It is not “seeing” Godliness, and yet it carries the potential to visualize Godliness in the mind’s eye – similar to Moshe, this is what Yakov managed to pass on to his sons.  Sometimes, that which remains tantalizingly out of reach is exactly what we need to motivate us to reach higher spiritual levels.

For more explanation and details, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org/weekly/w_Vayechi_5766.php

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 10, page 167

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