Viewing The Future From The Past

Teves 13, 5783
January 6, 2023
Candlelighting Time 4:32 PM

            At the conclusion of the blessings that Yaakov gave his children the Torah states “this” is what their father spoke to them. The meaning of “this” is cryptic and furthermore, Yaakov had just finished the blessings so what is added by this affirmation? Also, some of the sons received blessings that seem to relate to the spiritual, while others were given more physical blessings. Even the rebuke that some received is of spiritual nature since their censure serves to guide them in the future. Why weren’t the blessings all of the same nature?

            S’fas Emes cites the Zohar, a repository of mystical secrets about the Torah, that Yaakov blessed them specifically with the word “this” and not “these”. In other words, he instilled in them the theme of unity and a total cooperative ethos. If the nature of the blessings would have been defined as “these” are the blessings granted to them, it would have created divisiveness and tension amongst them.

            However, this message goes much deeper. In order to accomplish harmony and accord within the ranks of our nation we must strive to connect to Hashem, the objective of the world, a global recognition of His majestic kingship. When we are not focused on that fundamental underpinning, then a consolidated and seamless people will not succeed. Therefore, although seemingly the blessings were rationed out respectively to each particular tribe, truthfully there was an absolute connection between all of them that coalesced and merged them into one indivisible nation.

            And yet this theme is even more profound. When Yaakov came to Egypt and approached Pharaoh, he asked how old he is? Certainly, an odd question to greet another with! Furthermore, Yaakov didn’t answer pointedly, rather he mentioned his age and how difficult his life had been. Was that also part of the question? Chasam Sofer explains that when Yaakov came Pharaoh was incredibly overwhelmed with the nobility that he was encountering. He asked him if his entire life had been dedicated to a higher purpose that he appeared so virtuous and aristocratic. Yaakov responded that indeed he had tried to access levels of righteousness but he wasn’t so accomplished independently, but due to the merit of his forebears, he was able to achieve much in his lifetime.

            Therefore, the need for consolidation extends not only to those present and our immediate generation, but also to those who have forged a path for us through their acts of dedication to Hashem and the Torah. And perhaps in this vein we can understand that when Yosef came for a blessing to his father, the blessing was actually stated concerning his offspring and future generations. But where was the blessing for Yosef himself? And, of course, the answer is that the greatest blessing that one can merit is if he has generations that following in his footsteps.

            As they descended into the exile of Egypt, the prototype for all future exiles, these lessons were invaluable and would serve them well enduring this difficult period of time in our history and all eventually trials and tribulations that would necessarily come!


Just as the merchant is willing to forgo comfort in order to sell his wares, so too, the Torah scholar must sacrifice in order to be successful in study of Torah.