Parshas Vayechi: When The End Will Come

With this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayechi, the curtain once again closes on the Book of Bereishis.  As many times as we have journeyed and learned through the Book of Bereishis, it is always most impactful, enriching, and rewarding to do so once again.  And every year, as we close the book, there is a sense of longing as we leave our Avos, Imahos and their families once again. 

With so many lessons learned as we have gone through Bereishis together, Parshas Vayechi affords us one more opportunity to do so now. 

At the age of one hundred and forty seven, Yaakov Avinu is facing the end of his life.  Before he departs from this world, he blesses each of his sons, the shevatim (the twelve tribes), individually (Bereishis 49).  הִקָּבְצוּ וְשִׁמְעוּ, בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב; וְשִׁמְעוּ, אֶל-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיכֶם – gather around, and listen, the sons of Yaakov, and listen to Yisrael your father (49:2).

R’ Yitzchok Zilberstein writes, “Yaakov Avinu had a special message for each one of his sons.  Nevertheless, he made a point of gathering them all together and giving each his blessing in the presence of the other brothers – to teach that, although every Jew has his own mission in life designed just for him, he must never blind himself to the fact that he is part of a whole.

“Royalty was granted to Yehuda, kehuna to Levi, Torah to Yissachar, and so on.  Every individual has his personal mission to carry out in his lifetime.  But the individual must always remember the part he plays in partnership with the whole.  This principle can be learned also from the way the Israelites’ flags were arranged in the desert: Each tribe had its own flag, but they were all united in their camps surrounding the Mishkan.

“R’ Mordechai Shulman, Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, learned this principle from our Avos.

“Before Avraham discovered the Creator, his growth came through his own efforts; afterward, he received a gift of even greater growth from on High.  Yitzchak received his father’s inheritance, but it is clear that he did not receive his (primary middah of) ‘pachad Yitzchak’ from the chessed of Avraham.  He grew and flourished as a result of his own independent efforts.  Although he was Avraham’s disciple, Yitzchak constructed his own path in serving Hashem.  Everything that he received from his father was reworked with his own tools, so to speak, until he achieved results that were personal, original and unique. 

“Yaakov Avinu, disciple of Avraham and Yitzchak, likewise did not merit (his primary middah of) ‘emes l’Yaakov’ until after many years of toil, learning in Shem’s yeshiva, to reach his own zenith using his own tools and in his own way.

“This is the meaning (of what we say daily in the Shmoneh Esrei, when we bless Hashem Who is The) ‘Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak, v’Elokei Yaakov – G-d of Avraham, G-d of Yitzchak and G-d of Yaakov.’  The Rashba explains that each of our forefathers attained his level by taking an individually carved path toward Hashem.  (Hence we bless Hashem as the G-d of each of the Avos individually, as opposed to saying ‘the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov’.)

“As the pasuk says: מוֹנֶה מִסְפָּר, לַכּוֹכָבִים;  לְכֻלָּם, שֵׁמוֹת יִקְרָא – He counts the number of stars; to all of them He assigns a name (Tehillim 147:4).  Each star has its own mission.  On the other hand, the world needs them all.  Not a single star may be dispensed with.  Because the Children of Israel are compared to the stars (Bereishis 15:5), we have here an excellent paradigm for our own work in Hashem’s world.

“One may add that this also exemplifies the harmony at work in the Jewish home, in which each member has his or her own unique role to play.  While each has a specific, individual job to do within the family, husband and wife (and children!) must nevertheless work together in their joint service of Hashem, thereby creating peace in the home” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Bereishis, p.584-585).

This was the final lesson of Yaakov Avinu, as he blessed each of his sons in front of the others.   Every person must know that he is absolutely unique, and has a tafkid that only he can fulfill.  And simultaneously, he must know he is part of a the greater whole, the klal, and his individual tafkid can only be fulfilled in the context of the klal.

When Yaakov gathered his children around his deathbed in order to bless them, he initially had a different, primary motive.  The pasuk (49:1) says, הֵאָֽסְפוּ֙ וְאַגִּ֣ידָה לָכֶ֔ם אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־יִקְרָ֥א אֶתְכֶ֖ם בְּאַחֲרִ֥ית הַיָּמִֽים – Gather around and I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days.  Rashi (ibid) comments: בִּקֵּשׁ לְגַלּוֹת אֶת הַקֵּץ וְנִסְתַּלְּקָה מִמֶּנּוּ שְׁכִינָה וְהִתְחִיל אוֹמֵר דְּבָרִים אַחֵרִים – He wanted to reveal the end (when Moshiach would come), but the Shechina departed from him and he began to say other things.

Perhaps in the Birkas Yaakov, our forefather Yaakov IS teaching us the secret to the קֵּץ, the end of our exile, which cannot come soon enough… When we each embrace our unique roles, characteristics, strengths and abilities, while we fuse together with each and every other Jew to form the great Klal of Yisrael – perhaps THEN we will merit that the end will come.

Let us all strive to internalize and embrace our individual mission, while working for the betterment of our people as a whole.  For only with these combined strengths – yachid and klal – will we survive galus until the קֵּץ finally does arrive.  As Yosef, on his own deathbed, assured his brothers, and their children after them:

וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל-אֶחָיו, אָנֹכִי מֵת; וֵאלֹהִים פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם, וְהֶעֱלָה אֶתְכֶם מִן-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב – And Yosef said to his brothers, I am going to die, and G-d will surely remember you, and take you up from this land, to the land that He swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (50:24).

May we merit the קֵּץ, the final end to our exile, immediately and in our days.

בברכת בשורות טובות, ושבת שלום,


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