Yaakov desired to reveal the End of Days - yet it was
withheld from him. (Rashi)
"Yaakov called for his sons and said: 'Gather, and I will tell you
what will occur in the End of Days. Gather yourselves and listen,
O sons of Yaakov, and listen to Yisrael your father. (49:1-2)" The
"End of Days," commentators say, refers to the Messianic era. Rashi
comments that Yaakov wished to reveal to his children when
Mashiach would come, presumably to comfort them and their
descendants during their exile - yet the Divine Presence deserted him.
He realized Hashem did not want the End of Days to be known;
Mashiach was destined to remain a matter of faith, and not a matter
of dates and deadlines.
Living as we do in an era of calendars, day-planners, and PDAs, the
appeal of knowing an exact date and time is readily apparent. Not
only would knowing the time of Mashiach allow us to ensure we have
no conflicting simchos or tzeddakah parties scheduled; it would also
give us a sense of security and confidence, knowing that it is only a
matter of time. As expressed by the prophet Chabakkuk (2:3), "For
there is another revelation regarding the appointed time: It will
speak of the End, and it will not deceive. Though it may tarry,
await it, for it will surely come; it will not delay." Why, then, did
Hashem insist that the End of Days remain a mystery?
There was a time, says the K'li Yakar, when the "End of Days" was a
known entity. It was revealed to the Children of Israel that their
sojourn in Egypt would come to an end after 210 years. Yet their time
spent there was a spiritual disaster. Last week's parsha, Vayigash,
concludes (47:27): Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region
of Goshen; they acquired property there... One who boards the bus
for a short ride often doesn't even bother to take a seat. But if you're
taking the train and traversing the country, you might as well settle
in for the ride.
Chazal, our Sages, say that the Jews in Egypt, over a relatively short
time-span, descended into the very depths of impurity and decay.
This, says the K'li Yakar, was triggered by their having known the
length of their stay. "If there's nothing much I can do about it, and
I'm here for the duration, I might as well make myself comfy... " Had
they not known how long they'd be there; had they felt, perhaps, that
they could have an effect on the outcome through their behaviour,
then perhaps their stay in Egypt would not have had such tragic
This is why parshas Vayigash, which concludes with the Jews getting
comfy-cosy in Mitzrayim, is immediately followed by parshas
Vayechi, without the normal space between them, which, as Rashi
points out, is an illusion to the concealment of the End of Days. It's
as if to say to Yaakov, who desired to reveal the End: Been there,
done that - it doesn't work.
An elderly Jew once suffered a severe blow to his health, which
rendered him bed-ridden and to a large extent paralyzed. For many
months, he lay in his hospital bed, in great pain, yet, as they say,
holding on for dear life. He had great joy when people would come
to visit, most of all members of his family. His face would radiate a
special light; it was clear that these visits gave him the will to go on
living despite his painful state.
One day, during one of his regular visits, his Rav noticed that his
spirits seemed low. He was concerned; there was no joy - he seemed
to have lost his will to live. Not long afterwards, he passed away. I can
not forget how, at his funeral, the Rav poured out his wrath towards
"the foolish and misguided doctor (his words were not so kind)," who,
in the name of some pie-in-the-sky obsession with truth and realism,
had insisted on telling him that there was no chance he would ever
walk again. This, ultimately, was the blow that ended his life.
"Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die (Isaiah 22:13)."
Where there is hope, there is light. Where there is no hope, darkness
and depression reign. The K'li Yakar writes:
Great harm would result were the End of Days to be
known. The generations preceding that time would forget
Hashem. They would settle down in whatever land they
found themselves, and completely ignore the ultimate
redemption. It is for this reason that Hashem concealed
the Final Redemption, in order that in every generation
Jews would seek Hashem, and not seek to establish
themselves comfortably in exile.
I believe there is a tremendous lesson here for parents and teachers
(and anyone involved with motivating others): If you give a person
hope, and the feeling that they can make a difference, they will
respond with positive behaviour. But if you allow a person to feel that
they are a failure, then hope is lost, and their behaviour will spiral
One of the three questions we will be asked when we are brought
before the Heavenly Tribunal is: Did you await the Redemption
(Shabbos 31a)? Our task is not to focus on dates and deadlines; it is
to keep the flame of hope and belief burning.
Have a good Shabbos.
This week's publication was sponsored in loving
memory of Yehudis bas Meir Lipa ob"m, who passed away
on the tenth of Teves 5762, by her son David Betzalel
Rowan. May her memory be a blessing.