A Glimpse of the Future
If we could look into the future and discover when the major events in our
lives will take place, would we do it? If we could ascertain the exact dates
on which we will marry, have children and pass away from this world, would
we want to know? Most people would rather live with the uncertainty than
face the possibility of an unpleasant certainty.
In this week's portion, however, we seem to find an opposite view. As the
final minutes of his life draw near, the old patriarch Jacob summons his
sons to his bedside. With his great powers of divine inspiration, he sees
the long exile of the Jewish people stretching far into the future, but as
he continues to look, he also sees the arrival of the End of Days when the
exile will come to an end.
"Gather around," he says to his family, "and I will tell you about the End
of Days." But then he goes on to speak of other matters. What happened? The
Sages tell us that Jacob attempted to reveal the end of history to his
family. But the Divine Spirit departed from him, and his vision faded away.
The questions immediately arise: Why did Jacob want to tell them when the
exile would come to an end? Especially in light of what we now know, that it
would take thousands of years, wouldn't it only have disheartened and
discouraged them? Furthermore, if Jacob felt there was a purpose in telling
them, why indeed didn't Hashem allow him to do so?
The commentators explain that Jacob had no intention of revealing the date
of the End of Days to his children. There certainly would have been no point
in doing so. Rather, he wanted to give them a glimpse of what awaits them in
the End of Days. He wanted them to see the idyllic future world suffused
with the unrestricted emanations of the Divine Presence, a world of perfect
harmony and peace in which all humankind will be blessed with unlimited
knowledge and transcendent insight. This was the image he wanted to impress
on their minds so that they would not succumb to despair during the
tribulations of the dark years of exile.
But Hashem did not allow him to do so. The kindness of a father's heart had
motivated Jacob to reveal this image to his children, but as is often the
case, this well-intentioned kindness would ultimately deprive them of
immeasurable reward. If the Jewish people had seen a clear prophetic image
of the rewards in store for them in the future, they would naturally be
motivated to persevere and struggle against all odds to fulfill the Torah
and achieve those rewards. In that case, though, they would be doing it for
their own benefit rather than out of love for Hashem. But as long as they
have no such images in their minds, their continued loyalty to the Creator
through the worst of times remains an expression of incredibly powerful
faith and love for Him, and their reward will be proportionately bountiful.
A mother gave her two sons jigsaw puzzles and sent them off to play.
A long while later, she went to check on the them. Both boys had completed
One of them jumped up and ran to her. "Look, it's all done," he said
proudly. "Could you frame it and hang it on the wall?"
"Certainly," she said. Then she turned to her other son and asked, "Do you
want me to frame yours as well?"
The boy shrugged and shook his head. "Nah. It was no big deal. You don't
The mother was perplexed. "But your brother wants his framed. Why don't you
want the same for yours?"
"Well, I'll tell you," said the boy. "He didn't look at the picture before
he did the puzzle, so I guess it was a pretty big deal for him. But I looked
at the picture first, so it wasn't such a big deal."
In our own lives, we are all faced with periods of discouragement and even
hopelessness during which we would be much relieved if we could steal a
glimpse of Hashem's hidden hand at work. How much easier it would be to deal
with the vicissitudes of fortune if we understood how everything leads to
the ultimate good. But it is in this very darkness, when we stand on the
verge of despair, that we must discern Hashem's closeness by our faith alone
and feel ourselves enveloped in His loving embrace..
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.