12/24/2015

Shabbat Vayehi

Friday December 25th Candles 4:14pm
Havdalah 26th 5:09pm

The Book of Bereishit ends with Yaakov and Yosef’s deaths. Just before he dies Yaakov blesses his sons but in so doing makes important comments on past events and significant predictions about the future.

Most of the sons are given two or three lines like Reuven, the first born, who is dismissed as unstable. An obvious justification for the first born being passed over. He plays little part in the future of the Jewish people because his interest was purely material ( the tribe preferred to stay on the East bank where the grazing was better).

But Yehudah and Yosef are given five lines. As we know, some five hundred years later the monarchy would begin with Saul of Benjamin but then pass to David of Yehudah and remained with his dynasty until the Babylonian exile in 586. But after David’s son Shlomo the tribes split into to separate countries. Yehudah in the south and the ten tribes who were identified with Yosef in the North. So Yaakov’s predictions came true. Yehudah and Yosef were the dominant tribes of our people.

But Yaakov also says that Yehudah would rule from “when they come to Shiloh” or “until the coming of Shiloh.” Shiloh was where the Tabernacle was for most of the time before it ultimately became absorbed into the Temple. What did Yaakov mean? That Temple in Yehudah would would then take over from Shilo? Or as some commentators suggest until the Messiah comes ( Shiloh became a code word for that). But it’s strange that nowhere else in the Torah is there any mention of a Messiah in the sense that we use it today.

Academics, or cynics might say that these predictions were in fact later insertions to justify the historical outcome and to give messianic hope in exile.. There are always two ways of looking at things, the scientific and the spiritual. I believe both are valuable. We can use our brains and our souls to experience the world we inhabit and to derive spiritual guidance to cope with the challenges.