The text says, “Jacob called to his sons and said, ‘Gather together and I will reveal to you what will happen to you in time to come” (Gen. 49:1).
Wondering why the promised revelation never happened, the sages come to the conclusion that God intervened: “Jacob wished to reveal to his sons the end of days, but the Divine Presence departed from him.”
Some people might think God’s intervention was unfair both to Jacob and to his children.
If we ask ourselves how it can be justified, there could be good arguments on both sides.
The case against God is probably that human beings have a right to know what is ahead. If I know, for example, that I will die a poor man, why should I try to make money when I should be finding a way to live with poverty?
The case for God is that as a general rule it is better to live in hope and not be constrained by the knowledge of what the future will hold.
But there is another approach altogether which is implied in what happened to Jacob’s original plan. This approach asks what actually occurred at the bedside meeting of Jacob and his children.
True, the patriarch did not tell them any secrets about future events, but he revealed something even more valuable when he spoke about each child.
He did not say, “Reuben, you will become a millionaire”, but “Reuben, you are an impetuous character”.
In other words, “Reuben, recognise your strengths and weaknesses and know that by using them judiciously you will build your own destiny”.
To each child he unfolded not a fact but a trend. If his children were honest, they would have been grateful.