17/18 Nov: Vayechi : Shabbat comes in 3:37 pm, ends 4:47pm
Parashat Vayecḥi: When We Are Ready
A year ago, my B’nei Mitzvah was derailed by a conversation about the Messiah. It
was a fairly good reason for a class to be derailed, and so I allowed it, and we spent a
significant portion of class talking about the Messiah. Who is the Messiah supposed to be?
What is the Messiah supposed to do? How will we know that the Messiah has arrived? Of
course, as you can imagine, I was only able to answer based on our various textual
traditions. The Messiah will be a person, a human being, who will usher in the age of peace;
the Messiah is supposed to bring us all back to the Holy Land, to establish the Third Temple,
and to begin a new age; I think we’ll notice when world peace has arrived!
In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob also hints at this mysterious future, when he says
to his sons (Genesis 49:1): “Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to
come.” Our sages understand that Jacob was attempting to reveal prophecies to his sons of
the later days of human existence – the coming of the Messiah – but that God stopped him
from doing so. But why? If Jacob could have told his sons when the Messiah is set to arrive,
then I would have had a much better answer for my students!
Our sages give us two different schedules on which the Messiah might work. The first
is a set timing for the Messiah’s arrival, which we do not know. The second ‘schedule’ is the
idea that the Messiah may come at any point that the People of Israel are ready for him.
Understanding this, it seems that Jacob’s attempt to reveal the Messiah’s arrival would have
been the revelation of the deadline, and thus would have assumed that the People of Israel
would not usher in the Messianic Age early. Perhaps the assumption that we will not bring in
the Messianic Age would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, we need to assume that fixing
the world is within our power, and that if we prepare ourselves for peace, peace may