Vayechi, Siman 8 ויחי, ח׳
1 א

וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו, זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: מֵסִיר שָׂפָה לְנֶאֱמָנִים וְטַעַם זְקֵנִים יִקָּח (איוב יב, כא). הַכָּתוּב מְדַבֵּר בְּיִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב, שֶׁשְּׁנֵיהֶם בִּקְשׁוּ לְגַלּוֹת מִסְטוֹרִין שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. יִצְחָק כְּתִיב בּוֹ, וַיִּקְרָא אֶת עֵשָׂו בְּנוֹ הַגָּדֹל. בִּקֵּשׁ לְגַלּוֹת לוֹ אֶת הַקֵּץ, וְהֶעְלִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ. יַעֲקֹב בִּקֵּשׁ לְגַלּוֹת לְבָנָיו אֶת הַקֵּץ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו וְגוֹ'.

And Jacob called unto his sons (Gen. 49:1). Scripture states elsewhere in allusion to this verse: He removeth the speech of men of trust, and taketh away the sense of the elders (Job 12:20). This verse refers to Isaac and Jacob, for both of them desired to disclose the secrets of the Holy One, blessed be He. Concerning Isaac it is written: And he called Esau, his eldest son (Gen. 27:1), to reveal to him what was to transpire in the Messianic age. That was the reason the Holy One, blessed be He, withdrew the knowledge of it from him. Jacob likewise wanted to reveal to his sons what would occur in the Messianic age, as it is said: He called unto his sons and said: “Gather yourselves together that I may tell you” (ibid. 49:1).

2 ב

לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה, לְעֶבֶד שֶׁהֶאֱמִינוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ כָּל מַה שֶּׁבְּיָדוֹ. בָּא הָעֶבֶד לָמוּת, קָרָא לְבָנָיו לַעֲשׂוֹתָן בְּנֵי חוֹרִין, וְלוֹמַר לָהֶם הֵיכָן דִּיָּתֵּיקֵי שֶׁלָּהֶן וְהָאוֹנֵי שֶׁלָּהֶן. יָדַע הַמֶּלֶךְ הַדָּבָר, עָמַד לוֹ לְמַעְלָה הֵימֶנּוּ. רָאָהוּ אוֹתוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהִפְלִיג אֶת הַדָּבָר שֶׁהָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ לְגַלּוֹת לָהֶם. הִתְחִיל מְדַבֵּר הָעֶבֶד לְבָנָיו, בְּבַקָּשָׁה מִכֶּם אַתֶּם עֲבָדָיו שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ, הֱווּ מְכַבְּדִין אוֹתוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיִיתִי אֲנִי מְכַבְּדוֹ כָּל יָמָי. כָּךְ וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו לְגַלּוֹת לָהֶן אֶת הַקֵּץ, נִגְלָה עָלָיו הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אָמַר לוֹ: לְבָנֶיךָ אַתָּה קוֹרֵא וְלִי לָאו. שֶׁכֵּן יְשַׁעְיָה אוֹמֵר, וְלֹא אֹתִי קָרָאתָ יַעֲקֹב כִּי יָגַעְתָּ בִּי יִשְׂרָאֵל (ישעיה מג, כב). כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאָה אוֹתוֹ יַעֲקֹב, הִתְחִיל אוֹמֵר לְבָנָיו, בְּבַקָּשָׁה מִכֶּם הֱווּ מְכַבְּדִים לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁכִּבְּדוּהוּ אֲנִי וַאֲבוֹתַי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלְּכוּ אֲבֹתַי לְפָנָיו. אָמְרוּ לוֹ: יוֹדְעִין אָנוּ מַה בְּלִבֶּךָ. עָנוּ כֻלָּם, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹ' (דברים ו, ד). כֵּיוָן שֶׁשָּׁמַע מֵהֶם כָּךְ, מִיָּד וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל רֹאשׁ הַמִּטָּה. הִתְחִיל אוֹמֵר בְּלַחַשׁ, בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, כְּבֹד אֱלֹהִים הַסְתֵּר דָּבָר וּכְבֹד מְלָכִים חֲקֹר דָּבָר (משלי כה, ב). אֵין הַמִּדָּה הַזּוֹ שֶׁלְּךָ, הוֹלֵךְ רָכִיל מְגַלֶּה סּוֹד וְנֶאֱמַן רוּחַ מְכַסֶּה דָבָר (משלי יא, יג).

This may be compared to a slave to whom a king entrusted all his possessions. When the slave was about to die, he summoned his sons to tell them where the will and writ of manumission were to be found so that they could become free men. The king discovered this and remained at his bedside. When he saw the king, he set aside the thing he wished to reveal to them, and admonished them instead, saying: “You are the king’s slaves, honor him as I have all my life.” Similarly when Jacob summoned his sons to reveal to them what would transpire in the Messianic age, the Holy One, blessed be He, appeared before him and said: You have summoned your sons, but you did not summon Me. And thus Isaiah said: Yet thou hast not called me, O Jacob; neither hast thou wearied thyself about Me, O Israel (Isa. 43:22). When Jacob saw Him, he began to tell his sons: I implore you to honor the Holy One, blessed be He, just as my ancestors honored Him, as is said: The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk (Gen. 48:50). They replied: We know what is in thy heart, and they declared together: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One (Deut. 6:4). Upon hearing this, Israel bowed down upon the bed’s head (Gen. 47:31), and began to say in a whisper: Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the glory of kings is to search out the matter (Prov. 25:2). Apparently you do not possess this attribute, For he that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets; but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth a matter (Prov. 11:13).

3 ג

וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: אֶקְרָא לֵאלֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן וְגוֹ' (תהלים נז, ג). אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי, שְׁלֹשָׁה דְבָרִים גָּזְרוּ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל מַטָּה. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן, אֶחָד בִּימֵי עֶזְרָא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלוּ מִבָּבֶל, בִּקֵּשׁ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְהַתִּיר לָהֶם אֶת הַמַּעַשְׂרוֹת. מֶה עָשׂוּ. עָמְדוּ וְגָזְרוּ עַל עַצְמָן שֶׁיְּהוּ מְעַשְּׂרִין, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְאֶת רֵאשִׁית עֲרִיסֹתֵינוּ וּתְרוּמֹתֵינוּ וּפְרִי כָל עֵץ תִּירוֹשׁ וְיִצְהָר נָבִיא לַכֹּהֲנִים אֶל לִשְׁכוֹת בֵּית אֱלֹהֵינוּ וּמַעְשַׂר אַדְמָתֵנוּ לַלְוִיִּם (נחמיה י, לח). מֶה עָשׂוּ. כָּתְבוּ בַּסֵּפֶר וְחָתְמוּ אוֹתוֹ וְנָתְנוּ אוֹתוֹ בַּהֵיכָל. לְמָחָר נִכְנְסוּ וּמָצְאוּ אוֹתוֹ חָתוּם. וּמִנַּיִן, שֶׁכָּךְ כְּתִיב: וּבְכָל זֹאת אֲנַחְנוּ כֹּרְתִים אֲמָנָה וְכֹתְבִים וְעַל הֶחָתוּם (נחמיה י, א). מִכָּאן שֶׁהִסְכִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִמָּהֶם.

And Jacob called unto his sons. Scripture states elsewhere in allusion to this verse: I will cry unto God Most High; unto God that accomplisheth it for me (Ps. 57:3). R. Joshua the son of Levi said: The earthly court promulgated three decrees. And these are they: the first occurred during the time of Ezra. After their return from Babylon, the Holy One, blessed be He, desired them to release the Israelites from the obligation of giving tithes.13Because they were impoverished, and the tithe demanded too great a sacrifice. What did the Israelites do? They arose and decreed that they would pay their tithes, as it is said: And that we should bring the first of our dough, and our heave-offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, the wine and the oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our land unto the priests (Neh. 10:38). What did they do after that? They recorded this decree in a book, signed it, and placed it in the Temple. When they entered the Temple the next day, they found that it had been sealed. Whence do we know this? It is written: And yet for all this we make a sure covenant, and subscribe it, and seal it (ibid., v. 1). Because it had been sealed they knew that the Holy One, blessed be He, approved their decision.

4 ד

וְאֶחָד בִּימֵי מָרְדְּכַי וְאֶסְתֵּר. מַה כְּתִיב שָׁם, קִיְּמוּ וְקִבְּלוּ הַיְּהוּדִים עֲלֵיהֶם וְעַל זַרְעָם (אסתר ט, יז). וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁהִסְכִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִמָּהֶם. דִּכְתִיב: וְקִבֵּל הַיְּהוּדִים, קִבֵּל רַבָּן שֶׁל יְהוּדִים.

The second occurred in the days of Mordecai and Esther. What is written there? The Jews ordained, and accepted it upon them and their seed (Est. 9:27). How do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, concurred? Because it is written: the Jews ordained and accepted. The word accepted (kibal) is written in the singular form, thereby indicating that the Master of the Jews concurred.

5 ה

וְאֶחָד בִּימֵי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ. בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לָאָרֶץ, אָמַר לָהֶם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, וְהָיְתָה הָעִיר חֵרֶם הִיא וְכָל אֲשֶׁר בָּהּ (יהושע ו, יז). וְאֵין אַתְּ מוֹצֵא שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ עַל כָּךְ, אֶלָּא יְהוֹשֻׁע מֵעַצְמוֹ אָמַר. וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁהִסְכִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִמָּהֶן, שֶׁכָּךְ כְּתִיב: חָטָא יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגַם עָבְרוּ וְגוֹ' (יהושע ז, יא). הֱוֵי, שֶׁהִסְכִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִמּוֹ. הֱוֵי, אֶקְרָא לֵאלֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן לָאֵל גֹּמֵר עָלָי.

The third episode took place in the days of Joshua after the Israelites had entered the Land. Joshua told them: And the city shall be devoted, even it and all that is therein (Josh. 6:17). You find here that it was not the people but Joshua who issued this decree. But how do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, approved it? Because it is written: Israel hath sinned, yea, they have even transgressed My covenant (ibid. 7:11). Hence the Holy One, blessed be He, must have agreed with him. And thus it is written: I will cry unto God Most High; unto God that accomplisheth it for me (Ps. 47:3).

6 ו

דָּבָר אַחֵר, אֶקְרָא לֵאלֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן, מְדַבֵּר בְּיַעֲקֹב. בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ בָּנָיו, בֵּרֲכָן, הִתְחִיל מְחַלֵּק לָהֶן פְּרוֹקְפָּאוֹת. וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁהִסְכִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִמּוֹ. אַתְּ מוֹצֵא כָּל בְּרָכָה וּבְרָכָה שֶׁבֵּרַךְ יַעֲקֹב אֶת הַשֵּׁבֶט, כָּךְ בֵּרֲכָן מֹשֶׁה, שֶׁהִסְכִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עִמּוֹ עַל כָּל בְּרָכָה וּבְרָכָה. אֵימָתַי, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה מִסְתַּלֵּק מִן הָעוֹלָם. הֱוֵי, וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו. הֵאָסְפוּ וְאַגִּידָה לָכֶם.

Another explanation of I will cry unto God Most High. This refers to Jacob. When his sons entered to receive their blessing, he began to distribute the honors among them. Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, agreed with him? From the fact that you find that every blessing Jacob conferred upon each of the tribes, Moses invoked upon them later on. Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, must have approved each blessing. When did he bless them? As he was about to depart from this world. Hence, And Jacob called unto his sons and said: “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you” (Gen. 49:1).

7 ז

אָמַר רַבִּי פִּנְחָס הַכֹּהֵן בַּר חָמָא וְרַבִּי יְהוּדָה בַּר שַׁלּוּם, מַהוּ הֵאָסְפוּ, הִטַּהֲרוּ. כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: תִּסָּגֵר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים וְאַחַר תֵּאָסֵף (במדבר יב, יד). דָּבָר אַחֵר, הֵאָסְפוּ, מִנָּה מֵהֶם זְקֵנִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: אֶסְפָה לִּי וְגוֹ' (במדבר יא, טז).

R. Phinehas the priest, the son of Hama and R. Judah the son of Shalum asked: What is meant by gather yourselves together (he’asfu)? It means purify yourselves, as stated in the verse: Let her be shut up within the camp seven days, and after that she shall be purified (te’asef) (Num. 12:14). Another interpretation of gather yourselves. He counted them as elders, as is said: Gather unto me the seventy of the elders of Israel (Num. 11:16).

8 ח

לָמָּה אָמַר הֵאָסְפוּ הִקָּבְצוּ, הוֹדִיעָם שֶׁהֵן גּוֹלִין שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. מִשֶּׁמִּנָּה מֵהֶן זְקֵנִים, הִתְחִיל מוֹכִיחָן, רְאוּבֵן בְּכֹרִי אַתָּה. וּמֵאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה, זָכוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִהְיוֹת קוֹרִין שְׁמַע. כֵּיצַד, כְּשֶׁהָיָה יַעֲקֹב מִסְתַּלֵּק מִן הָעוֹלָם, הִרְהֵר בְּלִבּוֹ וְאָמַר, אַבְרָהָם אָבִי הוֹלִיד יִצְחָק וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל, יִצְחָק אָבִי הוֹלִיד אוֹתִי וְעֵשָׂו, שֶׁמָּא אֲנִי יֵשׁ בְּמִטָּתִי פְּסֹלֶת. כֵּיוָן שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ כָךְ, אָמְרוּ כֻלָּן בְּפֶה אֶחָד, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה' אֶחָד (דברים ו, ד). הָדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב, וְשִׁמְעוּ אֶל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיכֶם.

Why did he say to them Gather yourselves together, assemble yourselves (Gen. 49:1–2)? He did so to let them realize that they would be exiled twice. After he had designated the elders among them, he began to rebuke them, saying: Reuben, thou art my firstborn (Gen. 49:3). From that very moment Israel merited reciting the Shema. Why? When Jacob was about to depart from this world, he reflected upon it and said: “My grandfather Abraham begot Isaac and Ishmael, and my father, Isaac, begot me and Esau; perhaps there is a blemish in my family.” When they heard this, they proclaimed in unison: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4). Hence it is written: Hearken to Israel, thy father (Gen. 49:2).