This week’s Torah portion describes the end of the life of Jacob. We read that “the time drew near [for] Israel (Jacob) [to] die.” Once Israel (the spiritual name of Jacob) realizes it is his time to “bite-the-dust” he calls his sons to bless them, to tell [them] what sh[ould happen] in the last days,” and to make them promise to bury him in the land of his forefathers; the Land of Canaan. For the sake of this observation, I want to write about the “acharit hayamim—the last days”and the blessing of Jacob upon his sons. Now, I know the expression “the last days” may sound a bit “cliché” and that’s because it is. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of the word “cliché” is as follows, “a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.” Isn’t that a perfect definition of how many people around the globe view the phrase “the last days?” Unfortunately it has become a common, long-overused phrase that has lost its impact and originality. What does Jacob have to say concerning this phrase? What does he mean by using these terms? According to many of the sages, Jacob desired to reveal to his sons the timing and circumstances surrounding the last days, but God did not allow him to do so. The Rashi writes that, “Jacob wanted to reveal the time of the Future redemption but the Divine Presence left him.” Why did God’s presence leave Jacob? Because, writes the Ramchal in his commentary; “Yaakov Avinu (Jacob our father)…[was] ma[king] a great mistake, for the time of the End of Days is something which must remain hidden. Had the time of the redemption been revealed, succeeding generations would have grown lax in their tshuva (repentance) and in their yearning for the Final Redemption. Furthermore, it is within their (the succeeding generations) power to hasten the arrival of those days…” God did not want the timing of the Last Days revealed because future generations, knowing the proximity of the end of days, could use this revelation as an excuse to do evil rather than a purpose to do good. Besides, God did not want us to find our comfort in a deadline; rather, He wanted us to pursue Him out of a pure heart.God doesn’t want His people to live by His deadlines. Instead, He gives His people life because He is our lifeline. God has set the deadline, yet, at the same time, He is our lifeline. God wants us to live in the moment, remembering what He has done for us, rather than live with an “End of World” perspective in our front view all the time. What does this mean? It means, “The sky is falling” mentality of many believers is wrong! God did not create us to remind the world of its impending fate. He created us to bring hope, change, life and light to wherever we go! We as believers cannot just stand by and “watch the world run its course.” If we comfort ourselves with God’s impending deadline = His coming judgment, while doing nothing to change the world around us, to use a quote commonly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer “…God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” God did not want Jacob to tell his sons the timing of the last days lest they become lax in their relationship and their service to God. God’s Divine presence leaves Jacob the very moment he prepares to reveal his secret.
“Jacob Blesses His Sons” by Phillip Medhurst
The Ramchal writes that “the Divine Presence departed from him (Jacob) and left him in a state of confusion causing him to utter words that need not have been said, as if he did not know what he was speaking about. This is apparent in the following [verse]: ‘gather yourselves and listen, O sons of Yaakov, and listen to Yisroel (Israel) your father’ (verse 2). Why must Yaakov ask them to gather after he had already requested of them [to] assemble? (From the previous verse) Furthermore, why does this latter [verse] open with his asking them to listen to their father Yaakov and conclude with his asking them to listen to their father Yisroel (Israel)?” It was only after Jacob decided to not reveal the end of days to his sons and when he invoked his spiritual name “Israel” that clarity of mind returned to him in order that he could bless his sons. However, according to Baal HaTurim, he writes in his commentary that, though “vision was withheld from him (Jacob) by God, so that he had to make do with allusions to earlier events, he managed to insert hints of what was to happen still later.” What Baal HaTurim is saying is that the “last days” message Jacob wanted to reveal to his sons is hidden within the blessings he bestowed upon each of them. Even though Jacob was prohibited from speaking clearly about “the last days,” within the blessings of each of Jacob’s sons we find clues, pointing to the ultimate redemption. Jacob calls his sons together and tells them,“He’asfu V’agidah Lachem Et Asher-Yikra Etchem B’Acharit HaYamim. Hikavtzu V’Shimu B’nei Yaakov V’Shimu El-Yisrael Avichem—Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days. Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father.” Now, before we continue, there are some very interesting Hebrew words we must clarify. The first Hebrew word that sticks out from this verse is the found in the phrase Asher-Yikra Etchem—what shall befall you.” The word “yikra” is translated in this verse as “shall befall.” But the word “yikra” comes from the Hebrew root word “kara” which means to “cry out, call, or proclaim.” We could literally translate Jacob’s words as “what shall call to you in the last days.” Rabbi Hirsch, wrote, upon seeing this connection, “Jacob taught that whatever event may happen, it must be understood as a call from God, for nothing is haphazard; everything has a purpose. It is for us to ‘hear’ and seek to understand the call.” (Chumash, Stone Edition) Jacob’s blessing upon his sons was, in reality, destiny calling each son to his very own specific role, mission and position, in order to bring about the final redemption. Everything that happens in life is a call from God. Jacob was not telling his sons “let me tell you what is going to befall/happen to you in the last days.” Instead, he was saying “let me tell each of you what your specific role will be in bringing about the ultimate redemption.” (Now, I know it may seem that I am confusing the terms “end times/final days” and “the ultimate/final redemption–a.k.a. the Messianic Age.” However, the commentators by and large agree that the phrase “End Of Days” is synonymous with the Messianic era.) Jacob’s words to his sons are vital for us to understand today. The blessing of Jacob was to prepare his sons for their upcoming roles in bringing about the redemption. The phrase “[Let me] tell you what shall befall you” is not a passive phrase, it is a call to action; “[Let me] tell you what shall call you!”Today, what is your calling in bringing about the final redemption? Each of Jacob’s sons had a role. What is your role? What are you doing to bring the era of the Messiah? Now that you know that each of Jacob’s blessings is in fact a prophecy, hinting to the future redemption, I invite you to read the blessings of Jacob from a different perspective. To finish out this observation I want to go back to Jacob’s first words to his sons. It is here that we will find the first steps, which will allow us to walk in our specific calling. Jacob says, He’asfu V’agidah Lachem Et Asher-Yikra Etchem B’Acharit HaYamim. Hikavtzu V’Shimu B’nei Yaakov V’Shimu El-Yisrael Avichem—Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days. Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father.” Jacob says “He’asfu—Gather together” and then in the next verse “Hikavtzu—Gather together.” What is important to Jacob? For his sons to be in gathered around him in unity! Only after Jacob’s sons “gather together” is he willing to tell them about the “Acharit HaYamim—the Last Days.” What does this mean for us today? It means that if there is no unity among brothers then it is not time for the redemption. Unity is one of the most important factors in order to bring about the final redemption. If the brothers had not gathered around Jacob in unity, none of them would have received their own unique blessing. And without their specific blessing their work in bringing about the redemption would have remained undone. Unity is what makes each of us strong to accomplish our specific mission and take part in God’s grand-Master-plan. To paraphrase the words of the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes, “a threefold cord gets the job done!” Together, is how we bring the redemption! It is the only way we can bring the redemption. If brothers do not join together, the redemption cannot happen. What is the key to bringing brothers together?
When God commanded the Tabernacle to be built, He was very detailed concerning the garments and vestments of the “Kohen HaGadol/High Priest.”
One of those garments was called the “Choshen” otherwise known in English as the “Breastplate.” Within this breastplate were 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Without the breastplate, each stone would remain singular and by itself. It was the breastplate that brought all the tribes/stones together as one. What does the breastplate symbolize? In gematria the Hebrew word “Choshen—Breastplate” is equal to the number 358. Another Hebrew word that is equal in gematria to 358 is the word “Mashiach—Messiah.” Just as the tribes/stones were joined together as one with the breastplate, brothers are brought together as one through the power of the Messiah. As we read in the book of Ephesians, “For He (Yeshua the Messiah) Himself is our peace,” reconciling us to God and bringing brothers close together. We say that the Messiah is the One who will bring unity, harmony and peace to the world. But how can He bring peace to the world, when those who say they follow Him are not in harmony and are not bringing peace to the world? We are the Messiah’s Ambassadors! If we cannot walk in harmony, joined by our common faith and hope, how can we ever expect the world to gather around the banner of the Messiah? Now is the time to join together as one people! Here is our calling for today from Isaiah 62,“Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up [the] banner [of the Messiah] for the peoples! Indeed the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the world: ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming.’” Proclaim to the end of the world and even to the Daughter of Zion: Salvation is coming! The Messiah is coming! He brings with Him, peace, harmony and joy for all nations, and in that day, everyone will be in united under the banner of King Messiah, when it is announced “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

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