In this Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob, gathers his children to reveal to them “Ketz HaYamim”–“the End of Days.” Rashi explains that Jacob’s intention was to reveal the date of the coming of Mashiach (Messiah).
Jacob called for his sons and said, “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days. (Gen. 4:1) However, he proceeds rebuking his sons without revealing to them the Ketz — End of Days. Rashi says that Jacob looked into the future and saw his children being in exile for a long time. Rashi says that the word “ketz” (end)—spelled in Hebrew Kof-Tzadik—has the numerical value of 190. (Kof=100, Tzadik=90. 100+90=190). Jacob gazed 190 years into the future and saw his children still enslaved in Egypt. He became depressed and Shechinah (Divine Presence) left him. As a result, he lost his ruach hakodesh (lit. “the holy spirit,” meaning Divine inspiration causing prophetic vision) and was not able to reveal the End of Days.
Rabbi Shimshon Ostropoler (Shimshon ben Pesah of Ostropoli), a noted 17 c. kabbalist and tzadik who lived before Baal Shem Tov, provided an amazing insight into this story. He explains as follows. When brothers decided to kill Joseph, it wasn’t a mere act of jealousy. They really thought Joseph was guilty of capital punishment. To condemn Joseph to death, they convened a Beit Din—Ecclesiastic Court. However, they needed a quorum of ten—minyan—which they were lacking. Recall that out of twelve brothers, Joseph was the accused and, obviously, not part of the court; Benjamin was still young and stayed with his father, Jacob; and Reuven left to tend the sheep leaving only nine brothers. To have the proper quorum of ten, the nine brothers enlisted the Shechinah—this Divine Presence—to complete their minyan, as it were. By doing so, they caused a blemish (Heb. pegam) in one of the names of G‑d – AHYH. This mysterious name appears in the Torah, in the story of the burning bush. When Moses asks G‑d what should he tell Jews in Egypt—who is the One who sent him to redeem them—G‑d answers him, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” – I will be that I will be. The word “Ehyeh” (pronounced “Eki’eh” and translated as “I will be”) is one of Divine names corresponding to the Sephirah of Keter. It is in this Name that brothers have caused a blemish (which impeded the flow of Divine benevolence into the world) by dragging the Shechinah into their murderous plan. Jacob was not aware of this incident.
The medrash says that when Jacob began rebuking his sons, to assure their father of their loyalty to his faith they answered him, “Listen Israel, the Lord is our G‑d, the Lord is One” – the famous Jewish prayer, Shemah Yisrael. Rabbi Shimson of Ostropoli offers an esoteric interpretation to this medrash. According to him, Jacob’s sons realized what was going on; why their father lost his prophetic vision. They were also prophets and they too gazed into the future and saw that 190 years from that time their children will still be slaves in Egypt. They also understood that Jacob’s calculation was incorrect, because he didn’t know all the facts, as Jacob did not know that Egyptian exile was caused by the sale of Joseph by his brothers and was further prolonged by the blemish in the Divine Name caused by the brothers. So Jacob’s children tried giving him a hint: “Listen, our father Israel (which was the second name of Jacob), you don’t know that we have sold Joseph to Egypt thereby causing a blemish in the holy name AHYH.” They said to him, “G‑d is One!” hinting that if you add the one name of G‑d that was misused by them, you will know when their sin will be expiated and the time for redemption will arrive. Indeed, explains Rabbi Shimshon Ostropoler, if you add the gematriah (numerical value) of AHYH to 190 (the numerical value of Ketz), you will get 211:Alef = 1 + Heh = 5 + Yud = 10 + Heh = 5 = Ahyeh 21 + Ketz = 190 = 211
In fact, the Jews spent exactly 210 years in Egypt, and in the year 211th from Jacob’s family descent into Egypt, the Jews were redeemed. Thus far is from Rabbi Shimshon Ostropoler.
There is a slight problem with Rashi’s commentary, however. Rashi starts by saying that Jacob wanted to reveal to his children the time of the arrival of Mashiach. Then, Rashi says, Jacob looked 190 years ahead and saw the Jews still in Egypt. Egyptian exile was not the last exile; it was the first. If Jacob wanted to reveal the End of Days—the coming of Messiah—why was he looking only 190 years ahead into the Egyptian exile? Rashi seems to switch suddenly from talking about the ultimate End of Days to the end of the Egyptian exile. If we take the first Rashi’s commentary at its face value, we should be talking about the ultimate End of Day—the Messianic time.
In Kabbalah, everything is viewed from the perspective of ten sephirot—the fundamental blueprint of creation. In the first world to be created—the world of Tohu (Chaos)—sephirot existed separately, by themselves, which ultimately caused their shuttering—a doctrine of Lurianic Kabbalah, known as Shevirat HaKelim (Breaking of the Vessels). In the emerging world of Tikkun (Reparation), there is inter-inclusion of sephirot—each sephirah includes all others—which allows sephirot to withstand G‑dly light without shattering. Thus, the ten sephirot—Keter, Chochmah, Binah, Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yisod, and Malchut—are further subdivided as Chochmah of Keter, Binah of Keter, etc., amounting to 100 combinations (10 x 10). In other words, every sephirah is composed of ten sephirot. This is a concept of self-similarity, on which fractal geometry is based. Therefore, in Kabbalah, every concept is viewed as reaching its ultimate potential when its numerical value is multiplied by ten.
Let’s follow this logic and see where it leads us. The gematriah of the word “Ketz” is 190. According to Rashi, this was supposed to be the end of the Egyptian exile, were it not for the additional 21 years missed Jacob in his calculation. If Jacob, however, was about to reveal the ultimate end of days, he was to look not mere 190 years into the future, but ten times that number—1,900 years from the beginning of the final exile. This exile began with the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holly Temple in Jerusalem) by Romans in the year 70 c.e. Add 1,900 to 70 and you get the year 1970.
“But nothing happened that year!” you may say. Not exactly. In 1943, the previous Lubavitcher Rebber, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, announced the imminent arrival of Messiah proclaiming, “l’alter l’t’shuva, l’alter l’geulah!” meaning, as soon as we repent, the Redemption will arrive. That year, he ordered the writing of a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) to greet Mashiach. Unfortunately, that Sefer Torah was not completed at the time. In 1970, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, suddenly ordered the completion of Mashiach’s Sefer Torah. This was yet another step towards the ultimate redemption.
Let’s now recall the insight of Rabbi Shimshon Ostropoler that Jacob missed 21 years in his calculation on account of the blemish in the Divine Name Ehyeh. Let’s now add 21 years to the year 1970. We now arrive at the year 1991. Based on this calculation, I was hoping that Mashiach would arrive in 1991. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Something very important, however, did happen. In that year, following by miraculous events of collapse of the Soviet Union (In Russian, the acronym for the Soviet Union is SSSR; written in Hebrew letters—Samach-Samach-Samach- Resh—it has the same gamatriah, 380, as Mitztrayim-Egypt!), the Lubavitcher Rebbe proclaimed, “Higiah Z’man Geulatchem!”–the Time of Your Redemption has arrived!
To be continued, G‑d willing, next week.