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Gather Together - A Key to Redemption

Torah Thoughts on Parshas Vayechi by Rabbi Zev Jacobs

"וַיִקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו וַיֹאמֶר הֵאָסְפוּ וְאַגִידָה לָכֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא אֶתְכֶם בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים" בְּרֵאשִׁית מ''ט:א'

“And Yaakov called for his sons and said: ‘Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days.’ ” Bereshis 49:1

Rashi cites the Midrash (Rabbah 98, Pesachim 56) that Yaakov Avinu wished to reveal the קֵץ – the detailed events of the End of Days – as is indicated in his declaration: “I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days.” Since we do not find him stating these events, but rather, other things, the Midrash deduces that the Imminent Presence of Hashem, the Shechinah, departed from him, indicating that either the details regarding the End of Days were concealed from him or that he lost the inspiration necessary to divulge the secrets. Yaakov Avinu then proceeded to charge each of the Shevatim with his own characteristic blessings.

This curious episode raises numerous questions: What caused the departure of the Shechinah? Did something go wrong? Why were his intentions thwarted? And how are we to understand the meaning of this missed opportunity – what is the Torah's lesson for us? And could there be some remnant to Yaakov Avinu’s originally-intended message in the blessings that he did ultimately deliver? These and more such questions are the gripping challenges addressed by the Midrash and Meforshim.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab shares a thought that addresses at least one of these questions. He explains that although the Shechinah departed, and Yaakov was unable to reveal the details of the End of Days, Yaakov Avinu instead charged the Shevatim with the essential behavior they would need in order to prepare for and receive the ultimate redemption. "הִקָבְצוּ וְשִׁמְעוּ" – “Gather yourselves and listen.” Yaakov Avinu hinted to his sons: “Know this: when you gather and join together, then, with that effort, you will be worthy of redemption.” So, in a sense, while Yaakov Avinu did not directly reveal what might occur, he told them of their latent ability to trigger those occurrences. The secret that Yaakov Avinu teaches us is that the unfolding of the ultimate redemption is within our reach when we unite as the Jewish People.

The Gemara (Yoma 21b) teaches that the redemptive state of the Second Beis HaMikdash was not that the Shechinah was present – for it wasn’t. That was the uniqueness of the First Beis HaMikdash. The Second Mikdash – of lesser stature – stood in the merit of the unity of the Jewish People. Void of the Shechinah, our nation can still retain the lower degree of redemptive status by being united. The Maharal of Prague (Netzach Yisrael 1) says that this is implied in the root word for exile – גלה – in which the letter "ה", to which we ascribe the numerical value of five, implies that the dispersed four corners of the two-dimensional plane are anchored by the single fifth central point. The fifth point is the unifying factor of our people. No matter how far we scatter, never do we disconnect. We may be as outcast as the four corners of the earth or diametrically separate, yet still the potential for reunification keeps us together. And it is precisely the ability to unite that is the core of our redemption, as hinted in the exile root word – גלה.

In a departing message to his children – all of us – Yaakov Avinu teaches that we can unite, and that when we do, we can and will trigger and achieve the redemptive times of the End of the Days.


Rabbi Zev Jacobs is an alumnus of HTC-Beis HaMidrash LaTorah (1997-1999) and was a student of Rabbi Tzvi Menachem Teller, זצ''ל, and Rabbi Yehoshua Levinson, זצ''ל, and is a talmid of Rabbi Binyamin Olstein שליט''א. He currently resides in Denver with his family, and serves as COO of Aish of the Rockies.

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