April 15, 2024
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The Blessing of Self Knowledge

Chazal tell us that Yaakov Avinu wished to reveal the keitz, the time of the final redemption, to his sons, but it was concealed from him. So instead he blessed them.

If Yaakov had intended to reveal the keitz, how was he able to immediately begin with blessings, without any previous preparation? Secondly, did Yaakov in fact bless all his children? The Torah seems to say that each one got his unique blessing—“Each according to his own blessing” (Bereishit 49:28)—yet Reuven, Shimon and Levi were castigated and many of the others were merely likened to various animals.

The Midrash says that the letters chet and tet do not appear in the names of the various tribes. No cheit, i.e., no sin or deficiency, is to be found in their names. That is why Yaakov thought to reveal the end of days to them. But he also saw that the letters kuf and tzadi—forming the word keitz—also do not appear in their names. And therefore, he changed his mind. Does this imply, God forbid, that the final redemption is not inherent in klal Yisrael?

The Midrash relates that every person has various names: the one Hashem gives him, that which his parents give him, the name he is called by his friends, and above all the one that he earns for himself. Everyone is endowed with a variety of talents and skills. Some are directly endowed by Heaven. Some are the result of heredity and environment. But the most significant are those that come by virtue of developing and actualizing one’s potential.

Talents, abilities and capabilities are points of potential. But if they remain an end in themselves, they are insignificant points.

The development and perfection of this world depends on the realization of each Jew’s individual potential. The Midrash tells us that the final redemption is alluded to in the names of the tribes for they contain the potential for bringing the world to its final redemption.

Mashiach can come at two possible times: at the preordained deadline or prior to that deadline, if we merit it. Yaakov observed the perfection inherent in the names of his children. There was no cheit, no deficiency in their potential abilities. Hence there was no need for Mashiach to tarry until the keitz, the preordained deadline. Yaakov saw that if they perfected their potential, Mashiach would come before the keitz. Thus the letters kuf and tzadi do not appear in their names.

Yaakov wished to reveal the keitz to his children. But after realizing the potential inherent in them, he chose to impart to them that which would obviate the keitz and bring the redemption closer.

Yaakov realized that the ultimate geulah depended on the development of his sons’ potential, the potential inherent in their names. Rather than reveal the deadline for redemption, he opted to bless them with self-knowledge that could help them bring the redemption at a much earlier date. In this vein, knowledge of the capabilities they possessed and their weak points was itself a blessing.

The ultimate potential of klal Yisrael is realized only when we will be united in Eretz Yisrael with the Beit Hamikdash under the rule of the Mashiach. In order to realize that goal, every individual must strive to develop his spiritual potential and appreciate what Jewish unity and Eretz Yisrael represent. This includes examining the possibility of actually settling in Eretz Yisrael, and at least recognizing the fact that being unable to fulfill this mitzvah leaves one’s Torah life lacking an important aspect. When Hashem sees that we yearn for this unity in Eretz Yisrael, He will surely grant us its fulfillment with the coming of Mashiach soon in our days.


Rabbi Zev Leff is the rabbi of Moshav Matityahu, and a renowned author, lecturer and educator. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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