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Posted on January 4, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night

This is the last parsha in Bereishis (Chazak!), the first in which there is an overt reference to the end of days:

Ya’akov called for his sons and said, “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days.” (Bereishis 49:1)

Don’t get too excited, as I am sure you won’t. By now we all know that Ya’akov only teased us with his statement. He didn’t actually follow through with the information he seemed set to reveal.

As Rashi points out, it wasn’t Ya’akov’s fault. He had intended to continue on with this life-altering information, but was denied access to it at the last moment by God. I have discussed on many occasions in the past the reason for that. Well, at least the ones we think are the reasons for it.

Why did Ya’akov Avinu decide to talk about the End of Days all of a sudden? That’s not really a question because, if not then, when? He was close to death and any secrets he had would have died with him, and some he believed had to be passed on to the next generation.

The real reason is, that because this is all these parshios have been about, triggering the final redemption. On the surface, the story is the story, but deeper down, it is about redemption masterminds. At times they may have gotten ahead of themselves and messed things up, but it was still redemption they were trying to actualize.


There are signs of this throughout. For example, when Yosef called his brothers spies, he wasn’t just being antagonistic. The Arizal says he was warning his brothers that if they didn’t fix their problem then, it would spill over into later generations, such as the one that spied Eretz Yisroel. And it would lead to such damage as to hold off the final redemption, which it did.

Another hint came at the end of Parashas Mikeitz, when Yosef told his brothers:

“What is this deed that you have committed? Don’t you know that a person like me—kamoni—practices divination—nachesh yenachesh?” (Bereishis 44:15)

The Hebrew word kamoni is spelled Chof-Mem-Nun-Yud. If you go backwards two letters in the verse from the Mem, the letter that follows is a Shin. Do the same again and you get a Yud, and one more time brings you to a Ches. Together, the letters spell Moshiach in reverse, and that is pretty amazing even if you don’t believe in things like this.

This is especially so since it occurs in the verse that also happens to mention nachash—snake, which has the same gematria as Moshiach. It was the original snake who caused us to go into exile from Gan Aiden, and it will be Moshiach that will reverse what the snake did and instead lead us to redemption. What are the odds now of such a word being encoded into such a verse randomly?

Shabbos Day

AND THE BROTHERS were supposed to figure that out, and what Yosef really meant when he accused them of being spies? They didn’t even figure out yet that it was Yosef, so how could they possibly have known he was talking to them in code?

For example, according to the Brisi Shalom, the word “meraglim” is really a roshei teivos of the words, m’Rachel Immi genavtem, l’Midianim Yishmael mechartem—from Rachel my mother you stole me; to Midianites, Arabs you sold me. Amazing “code,” but how could the brothers have figured that out while they still thought Yosef was an Egyptian viceroy?

They couldn’t. But we can and are supposed to.

Let me show you something else. When Yehudah approached Yosef at the beginning of last week’s parsha, it was to do or die. He was prepared to fight Yosef to the finish to free Binyomin and send him home to their father. Rashi explains the dialogue.

The Zohar says that it was something far deeper. It was the Malchus (Yehudah) reattaching itself to the Yesod (Yosef) to allow the light of redemption to flow once again. As long as the Malchus remains distanced or detached from the Yesod, exile results. Reattach it and redemption begins. Was that what Yehudah had in mind? Unlikely, especially given the hostile dialogue that Rashi said ensued.

But that is what was happening in the sefiros even if Yosef and Yehudah had no idea. Since their souls were rooted in these sefiros, these sefiros influenced their actions and their actions influenced their sefiros. And it was Hashgochah Pratis—Divine Providence—that influenced all of it, for the sake of current history and all history that was destined to follow.

This is essentially what Yosef indicated to his brothers when he revealed his true identity. He told them, “You didn’t send me here. God did as part of some bigger plan that goes beyond us!” He wasn’t just trying to convince his brothers that he no longer held a grudge against them. He was telling them that he had come to realize that what had seemed like just a family meltdown, was actually part of a much bigger global plot that included the rest of Jewish history until Moshiach comes. That includes us as well.

Life in general works that way. For example, when you put food into your mouth you just chew it and swallow it, barely aware of all the processes of digestion that have been initiated. You may have stopped thinking about it, but your body certainly hasn’t, and its net effect may still be yet to come.

Likewise, everything we do down here seems limited to us and to the people whom we might impact. But though we may not impact the sefiros to the same degree as earlier generations did, we still do. And they impact us. Our actions set things in motion that we might or might not be aware of at the time. This means that we have to consider the impact of what we plan to do, or not to do.

Yosef and his brothers may not have been aware of all this when they went through it, but we are after the fact, and we need to learn from it. Understanding the dynamic of redemption through these parshios is what empowers us to play a more prominent role in the geulah process. It is the difference, as the brothers found out the hard way, between being a pawn in the process or a partner with God in it.

Seudah Shlishis

ONE OF THE most famous divrei Torah in the Haggadah Shel Pesach is how it says we only meant to sojourn in Egypt. The implication is that we ended up staying longer than anticipated, and that because we did we ended up being enslaved. Why did we stay “too long”? Because we “excelled” there.

The expression is, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” But what do we say about the person, or nation, that gets fooled over and over again? What happened in Egypt was not the exception, but the rule. It happened in Spain and other parts of Europe, and now it is happening across the Western world.

To be fair, it is one thing not to learn from history within a single lifetime, and something else not to learn from history over several generations. Within a single lifetime, the conditions that led to error the first time are usually the same that lead to the same error the second or third time. But Spain in 1492 was very different than Egypt in 1313 BCE, just as America today is very different from Spain in the fifteenth century. There is a “reasonable” basis to believe that different conditions lead to different results.

But reasonable according to whom? According to us. But we base our opinion on what makes sense to us, which is often at odds with what makes sense to God. That’s why so many people have abandoned Torah over the ages, and many who haven’t, complain about what happens to them. Our idea of fair doesn’t always match up with God’s.

It is that assumption that is our undoing. The assumption that history and Divine Providence is supposed to make sense to us is why we question it when it doesn’t. This is the basis of our resentment towards God when things don’t work out the way we think they should, claiming injustice against God Who is never unjust. As God told Iyov, “Where were you when I founded the earth?” (Iyov 38:4), meaning, do you have any real understanding of what is just and what isn’t?

If history was so tricky then, what hope do we have of knowing how to accurately respond to it today? With signs. God is into signs. He used them in Egypt and He has used them ever since. We may not be able to figure out where history is going on our own, but God gives us hints that help us do the math and figure out what is probably happening. You just have to know what they are and how to interpret them, and that has been the failing of so many over the generations, as it is once again today.

It might be hard to fathom that the brothers could have figured out Yosef’s coded clues, but there were far more obvious signs that they should have been able to figure out. They saw the weird hashgochah. They experienced the Egyptian viceroy who knew more about them than he should have, and wanted to know more about them than they wanted to reveal.

The fact that they were so shocked when Yosef revealed himself, shows us just how out of touch they had been with the reality around them, and the history of which they were unwittingly a part. Perhaps this is why Ya’akov Avinu wanted to reveal secrets about the End of Days to them, having seen how his own sons misread signs of redemption.

A sefer I found out about three years ago has been somewhat of a redemption bible to me. It is called Acharis K’Reishis, and it is based upon the redemption teachings of the Ramchal and Vilna Gaon. The ideas are already hundreds of years old if not older, and are essential for correctly reading Jewish history and knowing what to do. Yet, so few people know about the sefer and the ideas in it.

It is a classic example of, “The stone the builders despised became the cornerstone” (Tehillim 118:23), because it should be at the top of our reading and learning lists, and yet it isn’t even at the bottom of them. Shame on us, because we have the means to avoid making past catastrophic mistakes, but live as if the sefer doesn’t exist.

Ain Od Milvado, Part 33

IT IS ALL a matter of Hashgochah Pratis, that is clear. There were people who left Europe on time, or late but miraculously, and so many who didn’t. There were righteous people who survived and those who died, non-righteous people who escaped and those who didn’t. Nothing is ever random, and all that we go through was destined since before Creation, actually decreed.

But, and this is a very important but, we don’t know the outcome of anything until after it has occurred. As far as we need to be concerned, everything is possible, and we have to do whatever we can to survive. We have to prepare ourselves as if it can make a difference, because we are judged for our effort, regardless of the outcome.

Most important of all, we have to take Yosef’s words to heart:

But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you. (Bereishis 45:5)

He may not have thought that when he was still in jail and the wine steward forgot about him. But after everything came to a conclusion and Yosef found himself at the top of the Egyptian totem pole, he realized how God had charted his course specifically to get him there. Even the episode with the wife of Potiphar was a necessary part of his growth process.

Everything is always leading to something. We may not understand why we have to go through what we do, but we have to understand that it is an important and positive step towards where we have to be as a person, and as a nation. This is what allows us to see the hand of God in all that happens, and what enables us to read the signs He sends us to tell us what He is doing next. Pre-Creation decrees aside, this can be the difference between surviving history and not.