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Parshat Vayechi (5762)
This week's section tells of the blessings that Yaakov gave to his son's before he died.
But it seems that these blessings were a consolation prize for what he wanted to give them. He wanted to reveal to them when Moshiach would arrive! (See Rashi 49:1)
At first glance this is not clear. The blessings he gave to his sons were wonderful; Blessings of power, success, wisdom and victory. Even blessings to Yehuda about Moshiach. How could revealing the date of Moshiach's arrival be better than that?! And what is so special about the date Moshiach will arrive?
Exactly the opposite. One of the major forces that would hold the Jewish people intact through these thousands of years of suffering in exile would be the hope that Moshiach would come immediately. If they knew that redemption was so far away, it would be destructive to the Jewish spirit.
But on the other hand, if it is such a good thing, then why didn't G-d let Yaakov reveal it?
To understand this here is a story.
Evening was falling. In another few minutes would be Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, and the large room was filled to capacity.
But a strange unearthly silence filled the Synagogue. No one seemed to move. The congregants either looked down at the floor, or straight ahead, as though they were more dead than alive, like some sort of strange black and gray picture.
The year was 1945 just after the war, the place; a refugee camp somewhere in Germany. Jews fresh out of concentration camps had gathered in a barracks-turned-Synagogue to pray.
The unanimously chosen "Rabbi" of this one-time congregation was none other than the famous Kloisenberger Rebbe. His holiness and erudition were unquestionable, but even more amazing, he had retained his sanity after loosing his wife and 11 children to the Nazis.
The minyan (congregation) was composed of all sorts of Jews. From ultra-orthodox, to those that had never been in a Synagogue before. But they all had one thing in common. No one but them could possibly understand what they had been through.
The Cantor began singing, and the congregation followed. There was much genuine weeping that night, until they got to the confession prayer called "AL CHAIT" where we request forgiveness for the sins we did with our eyes, our hands etc. through brazenness, through callousness etc.
Suddenly one of the congregants stood up and stamped his foot. "NO!!" He screamed "NO!"
Everyone turned and looked at him. One or two tried to gently calm him down. "NO!" he looked at them and yelled.
"What? I should ask forgiveness to G-d for sins I did with my eyes or my hands?
These eyes saw my own children killed! These hands had no time to sin, they had to work for those German devils day and night!
What? I was brazen?! I didn't dare lift my head for three years! I was callous? I gave my last bread to people I didn't know!
NO NO! IF anyone has to ask for forgiveness, G-D has to ask!
THAT'S RIGHT! G-D SOULD ASK ME FOR FORGIVENESS! He gave the Nazis eyes to see and hands to torture, and brazenness and callousness to rape and kill. So let Him ask forgiveness from us!"
The entire minyan fell silent again, and all eyes filled with tears turned to the Klosenberger Rebbe. What would he say?
After several seconds of pregnant silence, the Rebbe cleared his throat and said...
And everyone burst out in uncontrollable weeping. Men fell to their knees, and others just put their faces in their hands and wept and wept and wept.
After the crying had subsided and the room fell quiet once again, the Rebbe continued where he had left off.
"But I want to tell you why I asked G-d for forgiveness
In our camp the guards used to amuse themselves every morning by playing a sadistic game. They would line us up and pick five inmates. These unfortunate souls would be forced to carry a load of bricks up a steep flight of stairs in front of everyone. If one brick would fall, they would add another two in its place, and if the prisoner himself fell, they would slowly torture him to death before our eyes.
So it was every morning. True, the rest of the day wasn't much better. It was unbearably cold, our clothes were infested with lice, and we were given almost nothing to eat. Everyone was sick, and prisoners were dying like flies. But the worst and most humiliating was that morning ordeal.
It got to the point that the prayer each of us said before we went to sleep was,
"G-d, merciful G-d, please let me die in my sleep. Please don't let me wake up tomorrow morning." And I used to say it also.
That is what I just asked forgiveness for;
It never entered my mind to ask G-d to set me free! I forgot that there could be such a thing as being FREE!"
After several minutes the prayers resumed.
This is why the Patriarch Jacob couldn’t reveal the date when Moshiach was to arrive.
The Rambam explains in the end of his all-encompassing work (Hil. Melachim 11:1); when Moshiach arrives everyone will see the true oneness of G-d, and be interested only in the truth.
In other words, the world will be FREE of all falseness and people will be FREE to serve HaShem. Things will be like they are supposed to be. Just as we were set free from Egypt, even more so will be the freedom of the future redemption. (Micha 7:15)
But as important as it is, this goal seems impossibly far away (even for those as righteous as the son's of Yaakov) people forget they can be free to the degree that they don’t want freedom. That is why Yaakov wanted to reveal the earliest possible time that Moshiach can come.
The arrival of Moshiach depends on our work (Rambam Laws of Tshuva 7:5). If the sons of Yaakov were encouraged by the fact that Moshiach could come, they would have worked all the harder to not miss the opportunity, and they probably would have succeeded.
Then the world would be filled with G-dliness (in greater revelation than at Mount Sinai), where all possible blessings were included and would certainly be better than all the blessings their father could give them. That is why he tried to reveal the date of Moshiach.
But why did G-d prevent Yaakov from revealing it?
That is where our story comes in. It seems that for some reason G-d wants to squeeze every possible drop of service, faith and self-sacrifice from the Jewish people. If Moshiach would have come earlier, some of this self-sacrifice would have been missing.
I do not understand this answer, and the Lubavitch Rebbe related that before he was three years old he too did not understand it and was consumed with the idea of the Moshiach coming and making sense of all the Jewish pain and world suffering of these thousands of years.
One thing for sure...we need Moshiach NOW and it all depends on each of us. Just one more good deed, word or even thought can bring
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