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    End of days – Vayyechi

    Jacob blesses his sons on his deathbed (Figures de la Bible, 1728)

    “Jacob called to his children and said, ‘Assemble together as I tell you what will befall you at the end of days; Gather together and listen, Children of Jacob: listen to Israel your father’” (Gen. 49:1-2).

    The Targum Onkelos replaces the second “listen” by “accept instruction”.

    What instruction did Jacob have in mind?

    Understanding “end of days” in the usual sense, he intended to reveal how history would reach its end-point and what would happen then. But, say the rabbinic interpreters as quoted by Rashi, God intervened and prevented him from prophesying.

    The fear must have been that knowing the future might not be a blessing for the family.

    If their destiny was going to be unpleasant, they might have abandoned hope and faith and succumbed to despair; if it was going to be good, they might allow themselves all sorts of indulgences and transgressions, knowing that the future would protect them and the end result would be unaffected.

    Some scholars attach a less exciting meaning to “end of days”, simply explaining it as “in time to come”.

    Martin Buber said that “end of days” could have two meanings – the Messianic culmination of history, and the eschatological mystery of the future.

    Buber says the Messianic meaning is not what Jacob had in mind, but the second, but that is a subject which human beings are neither allowed nor able to speak of.

    There are matters which are beyond our understanding, especially the nature of God. We cannot fully comprehend the mystique of God; we can only apprehend His Presence. Or, as some phrase it, we cannot fully express God; we can only address Him.

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