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    The old man’s anecdotage – Vayyechi

    Jacob on his deathbed, by Jan Victors c.1635

    Jacob on his deathbed, by Jan Victors c.1635

    Lying on his deathbed, Jacob’s mind flashes back overt the joys and sorrows of his long life.

    He slows down and focusses on each of his children in turn. He knows each one’s good and bad points.

    He summons the energy to get them all to his bedside for a final message. His mind is clearer than it possibly has been for some time and he wants to impart a message to each child and to foretell their future.

    But then, as the rabbinic commentators point out, something stops him. He wants to be a prophet, but the gift of prophecy deserts him. It is God who has intervened, because it is better that the children should not know what Jacob wants to tell them.

    They need to find their own way in life, to face their own problems, to create their own future. Not just because no-one should try to be immune to life’s struggles, but because if you know what the future will hold you will lose your nerve.

    If the future is going to be bleak, why should you exert yourself? You can’t make a difference.

    If the future is due to be good, why shouldn’t you indulge your appetites and sin right, left and centre? None of this will be forfeited!

    It’s better for a human being to be unaware of what lies around the corner.

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