In the final moments of his life, our third patriarch, Ya’akov, prepares to give his children a picture of the future. Instead, he proceeds to reflect on their past. “And Ya’akov called his sons and said, ‘Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come…Reuven, you are my first-born…” (Genesis 29:1, 3).
The midrash Bereshit Rabbah comments that just when Ya’akov was about to reveal to them aharit hayamim, literally “the end of days,” or what the midrash calls the time of redemption, “it was hidden from him.” It then presents a parable of a person who was a dear friend of the king, knowing all of his secrets. When the king’s friend was near death, he was about to reveal all of the king’s secrets; but then, upon seeing the king’s face, reconsidered. The application of the parable to our story must include Ya’akov having a vision of the King–God–and also reconsidering sharing the secret of the end of days.
Which version of Ya’kov is more patriarch-like: the one who wants to tell all, or the one who decides to use his discretion? Which one do you like more? What are the lessons to be learned from the midrash? On Shabbat morning, we’ll unpack this teaching. We’ll also look at a story about the the plan of succession of the founder of Hasidism, the Ba’al Shem Tov. And we’ll consider the implications of this midrash on modern examples of punditry.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise