Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
by Rav Itamar Eldar
Yeshivat Har Etzion
"He wished to reveal the end"
parasha brings the book of Bereishit to its conclusion, and thus
the period of the patriarchs comes to an end. At the same time, however, our parasha
opens a new chapter in the history of the Jewish people: a difficult
chapter that begins in the parashiyot of Vayigash and Vayechi and
ends in the parashiyot of Bo and Beshalach in the book of Shemot
the galut of Egypt.
differ as to the extent to which Ya'akov and his sons were aware of the new and
lengthy chapter one that will last tens and hundreds of years that they
themselves inaugurated with their settlement in Egypt.
Ya'akov's death, his sons - Yosef's brothers - fear that Yosef will take
revenge against them. Yosef, however, pacifies them: "But as for you, you
thought evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it to pass at this
day that much people should be saved alive" (Bereishit 50:20).
looks back upon his sale with the perspective of thirty years; from this
perspective he sees how "you thought evil against me" turned out to
be "God meant it for good." But would Yosef have said the same thing
had he been granted the perspective of four hundred years down the road?
most closed of all the Parshiyot"
Chazal and, in their wake, the chassidic
masters wished to examine the events described at the end of the book of Bereishit
from the perspective of the exile about to be entered. Similarly, they
wished to analyze the personalities, consciousness, and deeds of Ya'akov and
his sons, which, from this perspective, were directed towards the upcoming
period. Thus, the Midrash states at the beginning of our parasha:
Ya'akov lived in the land
of Egypt." Why is
this section more closed than all the other sections of the Torah? Because as
soon as Ya'akov Avinu died the Egyptian servitude commenced for Israel. Another
reason why it is closed: Because Ya'akov wished to reveal the end, but it was
hidden ["closed"] from him. Another reason why it is closed: Because
all the troubles of the world were now closed for him. (Bereishit Rabba 96:1)
Parashat Vayechi stands out among all the parashiyot
in that it begins neither with an open parasha [parasha petucha =
which starts at the beginning of a line, the preceding line being left partly
or wholly blank] nor with a closed parasha [parasha setuma
which begins at a point other than the start of a line]. Rather, it continues
the succession of verses of the previous parasha without any break
indicating the beginning of a new section.
wish to clarify what this unusual masoretic phenomenon is trying to tell
us. They propose three alternatives:
Ya'akov's death, which is the subject matter of our parasha,
"seals" the fate of the Jewish people, bringing their liberty to an
end; with the passing of Ya'akov begins the Egyptian bondage.
In this parasha, Ya'akov wished to reveal to his sons the
end of Israel's
exile "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall
befall you in the last days" (Bereishit 49:1), but the vision
concerning this matter was "closed" (hidden) to him.
The seventeen years during which Ya'akov lived in Egypt, mentioned in
the opening verse of our parasha, were for him a period of relief from
all his troubles, after many years of hardship and affliction. During this
period, God "closed" off all adversities from Ya'akov.
Yehuda Arye Leib of Gur, author of the Sefat Emet, combines the first
The Midrash states:
"This section is closed, because when Ya'akov died, the hearts and eyes of
were closed. Another explanation: [Ya'akov] wished to reveal the end [of the
exile], but it was concealed from him." This is the parasha of
"And Ya'akov lived in the land of
Egypt" - Ya'akov's living in Egypt served as
preparation for the galut. Therefore, the galut could not start
until the vitality of Ya'akov that was in Egypt came to a close
this parasha is closed, for this vitality was terminated afterwards, as
stated above. Even according to the plain sense of the text, the galut itself
did not begin until that entire generation had died. It was only that the eye
of the intellect was closed before. For prior to the galut of the body
there was [already] the galut of the soul, for the body is dependent
upon the procession of the soul. And the galut of the souls followed
immediately upon the termination of Ya'akov Avinu's vitality, peace be upon
. (Sefat Emet 5635)
Sefat Emet relates here to the first allusion appearing in the Midrash,
according to which the death of Ya'akov heralded the beginning of the exile.
seventeen years that Ya'akov lived in Egypt
are not included in the years of exile, because Ya'akov's vitality did not
allow the bondage of the exile to take control of Israel.
death, asserts the Sefat Emet, allowed for the beginning of Israel's spiritual exile, and after the entire
generation had died, Israel's
physical exile began as well.
life did not allow room for exile and concealment, even if that life was lived
on foreign soil. Thus, it was only after Ya'akov's death that his vitality came
to a close and the galut began.
meaning of that vitality and the manner in which it invigorated the world and
voided the power of the exile may be understood from the continuation of the Sefat
That which he
writes: "[Ya'akov] wished to reveal the end [of the exile], but it was
concealed from him." If this refers to the time of the coming of the
Messiah, we do not know what profound secret is involved. Nor what is the
practical ramification of such knowledge. Rather, the correct interpretation is
that he wished to clarify for them the root of exile and redemption. For in
truth, evil descends from heaven and evil days come into being only because of
a deficiency in the receivers, that it is turned for them into evil. This is
only concealment. Therefore, it has an end and termination, because falsehood
has no basis or continued existence. Had they known this truth, the exile would
not have taken control of them. But because not everything had been properly
repaired, so that the exile of Egypt
was necessary, therefore, he could not reveal the end. (ibid.)
the Sefat Emet brings in the second allusion proposed by the Midrash,
regarding Ya'akov's desire to reveal the end, and even tries to veer from the
accepted interpretation of this desire.
general, the "end" is understood as the historical end of our lengthy
exile. The "end" is the end of the exile and the end of afflictions,
the time that we will come to "the rest and the inheritance."
According to this understanding, the revelation of the end refers to the
attempt to reveal the time and manner of the Messiah's coming.
is the simple and classic way of encouraging those living in galut to
believe that the redemption will eventually arrive, and even should it tarry,
it will nevertheless come.
Sefat Emet, as one who dwells in galut, refuses to accept this
approach or find consolation in such knowledge. As he says: "What is the
practical ramification of such knowledge." According to him, the end must
have ontological significance, on the one hand, and existential relevance,
on the other.
end of the galut is not an issue of time, contends the Sefat Emet,
but rather one of essence - "For in truth, evil does not descend from
heaven." Galut is falsehood, a mere optical illusion, blindness of
the eye, a deficiency in the observer from whose perspective it appears as evil
illusion is finite, for it has no substance or truth connecting it to the world
of eternity "therefore, it has an end and termination, because falsehood
has no basis or continued existence."
term used by the Sefat Emet is the accepted kabbalistic and chassidic
term used to describe the exile hester, "concealment."
concealment is void of substance, just as darkness, according to some
approaches, lacks substance in that it expresses a "virtual" state of
the absence of light.
to this, Ya'akov's vitality consists in the recognition of "the root of
exile and redemption" and the profound insight that galut has no
substance, but is merely the mistaken perspective of one who contemplates it
and is therefore found within it.
brings us to the greatly novel idea of the Sefat Emet: As soon as a
person understands this truth of Ya'akov, that is, as soon as he adopts this
insight into the matter of concealment, the concealment ceases to conceal, and
the exile comes to its fitting end.
desire to reveal the end, argues the Sefat Emet, is the desire to reveal
the falsehood concerning the galut and the illusion of concealment. With
the exposure of this truth, the imminent finiteness of the galut also
becomes exposed, and when it reaches its end, there is no longer any room in
the world for galut and bondage.
according to the midrash, concealed the end from Ya'akov, preventing him
from bestowing upon his sons that vitality that provides this profound insight.
Ya'akov's sons merited this inner recognition, the galut would not have
succeeded to take hold of them, and they too would have returned to the Holy Land together with Ya'akov's bones.
however, would have prevented the repair for which the galut was
necessary. For this reason, God concealed the end from Ya'akov and his sons in
order to allow the galut to have its effect, the Sefat Emet's
understanding of which we shall discuss at length below.
according to this, is concealment, and "closing of the end" refers to
the withholding of the knowledge that we are dealing with concealment.
idea is not new. It was coined by R. Yisra'el Ba'al Shem, the Besht, founder of
I heard from my
grandfather [= the Besht]: "I will surely hide" for when a person
does not know that there is concealment, then it is surely not good that he
should think that he is an absolute tzadik and not repent. But when he
knows that there is concealment and he feels it in his soul, then he submits
before God, blessed be He, and beseeches before Him. This is "Ve'anokhi
haster astir" (Devarim 31:18) I will hide the concealment,
and it will not be known that it is concealment." (Degel Machane
Efrayim, Tzav, s.v., "ve-ha-kohen")
is brought here in the name of the Besht, regarding the verse in Devarim 31:18,
"ve'anokhi haster astir," that the redundancy of the word
denoting concealment teaches about a double concealment. The idea of
"concealment within concealment" is cast in various directions in
to this teaching, R. Efrayim of Sudylkow, grandson of the Besht, sees in a
sinner a situation of "concealment" and in his failure to recognize
this situation "concealment within concealment."
Nachman of Breslov, great-grandson of the Besht, expresses a similar idea:
There are two
concealments. When God is hidden in a single concealment, then as well, it is
very difficult to find Him. Yet when He is hidden in a single concealment it is
still possible for an individual to toil and strive until he finds Him, since
he is aware that God is hidden from him. But when God is concealed in a
concealment within a concealment, in other words the concealment itself is
concealed from him so that he is completely oblivious to the fact that God is
hidden from him then it is entirely impossible to find Him, since he is not
at all aware that God is hidden there.
analogous to "I will thoroughly hide [haster astir]" (Devarim
31:18) that is, "I will conceal the concealment," so that they
will be completely oblivious to the fact that God is hidden. As a result, he will
certainly not be able to find Him, since he is completely unaware of the need
to look for Him; he is completely oblivious to the fact that God is hidden from
him, because the concealment itself is concealed from him, as explained above.
(Likutei Moharan Kama 56, 3)
great danger in "concealment within a concealment," according to R.
Nachman, is the situation in which a person
"is completely unaware of the need to look for Him; he is
completely oblivious to the fact that God is hidden from him, because the
concealment itself is concealed from him."
sick person who is unaware of his illness is in the gravest danger. A person
who does not know about the danger lying in wait around the corner will
probably fall into its net: "Our soul is overfilled with the scorn of
those who are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud" (Tehilim 123:4).
Sefat Emet, in the aforementioned passage, makes additional, if not
explicit, use of the principle of "concealment within concealment."
end, according to the Sefat Emet, is the concealment of the fact that it
is the objective of galut, and thus also its end.
closing of the end, "concealment within concealment," prevents us
from recognizing that galut has no absolute existence, but is merely
to the Sefat Emet, the "end" has a far broader and more
profound significance than the "coming of the Messiah." Thus, its
prevention provides galut, God forbid, with a dimension of eternity,
both in the historical sense, and according to the Sefat Emet, also in
the existential sense.
will Ya'akov's descendants make it through the dark days of galut if its
historical and existential end is hidden from them?
An answer to
this question may be found in a teaching attributed to the Besht:
If a person
knows that the Holy One, blessed be He, is concealed in a certain place, it is
no longer concealment, for we will say that all evildoers have been dispersed.
Therefore, it says: "And I will surely hide My face." That is to say,
He will hide from them, so that they have no knowledge whatsoever that the Holy
One, blessed be He, is there in concealment. (The Besht, Be'er ha-Chasidut,
person who merits to reach the aspect of Ya'akov does not see the concealment.
For him the entire world is nothing but great illuminating light: "For in
truth, evil does not descend from heaven," as the Sefat Emet puts
it. But one who does not merit the aspect of Ya'akov, but rather confronts
concealment, a sort of galut, the very recognition of the existence of
the concealment, and thus its finiteness and falsity, knock down the curtain
that hides the light.
This is the
way the Sefat Emet describes this mental state in the continuation of
find that He revealed what He wished to reveal, only by way of concealment. We
have explained that there is a shining glass, this being the aspect of Ya'akov
before whom there is no concealment, he seeing everything. And there is a glass
that does not shine, this being the aspect of faith. For we must come to the
truth by way of the concealment itself through faith. It is called a glass that
does not shine, because the light comes from the concealment. Since Ya'akov was
unable to reveal this end, namely, to clarify the truth for them through the
glass that shines, the repair must be by way of the aspect of faith. We must
know this even now, for it is true in every galut. That before the galut,
the Holy One, blessed be He, prepares holy illuminations to which we can
cleave even in the darkness, though this is not revealed. And when we properly
believe we can find the truth. Then redemption comes, for the end of galut is
redemption, as stated above. (Sefat Emet, Vayechi, 5635)
tried to pass on to his children a perspective according to which there is no
concealment, and the entire world is an expression of a great shining light.
This is the glass that shines, between which and the light there is no curtain
At the polar
extreme of this position stands the depressing and despairing approach
according to which darkness has substance, and concealment constitutes an
entity in and of itself. According to this approach, "the hour has dragged
on, and there is no end to the evil days" (from the piyyut for
Chanuka, Ma'oz Tzur).
two approaches, stand the words of the Besht, which reflect a mental position
which the Sefat Emet refers to as "faith."
Faith is the
recognition that "we must come to the truth by way of the concealment
itself." When a person reflects upon the galut in the light of
faith, smiles at it, and sees in it concealment of a great light, he reveals
the light, removes the curtains, and reveals once again the great lie, and the
end of the galut reappears.
is what Ya'akov gave to his sons. According to the Sefat Emet, this
ability has been handed down as an inheritance throughout the course of the galut.
The more it appears, the more it exposes, the sooner the galut will come
to an end.
this, Ya'akov, in his seventeen year stay in Egypt, did not reveal the end, but
"before the galut, prepared holy illuminations," as the
Sefat Emet puts it, which could be exposed in the galut through
faith and the recognition that we are dealing here with nothing more than
"In all their affliction he was afflicted/there is no
affliction" (Yeshaya 63:9)
These two aspects - that of the "shining
glass," which is the aspect of Ya'akov in a world of revealed light, and
the aspect of the "glass that does not shine," which is the aspect of
Ya'akov in a world of concealment reflect two attitudes toward galut.
Thus writes the Sefat Emet in a different passage:
"I will go down with you into Egypt
and I will surely bring you up again" (Bereishit 46:4), contains
two promises to be with the people of Israel in galut and to
redeem them. Regarding these two [promises] it is written: "In all their
affliction He was afflicted/there is no affliction" (Yeshaya 63:9)
[the word lo] with a vav and with an alef.
"He was afflicted" with a vav refers to assistance in galut,
the aspect of the six days of creation. "There is no affliction" with
an alef refers to the redemption, the aspect of Shabbat, an estate without
bounds. (Vayigash, 5659)
Sefat Emet expounds the wonderful verse, wrapped in the light of
lovingkindness, found in the prophecy of Yeshaya:
In all their
affliction He was afflicted/there is no affliction, and the angel of His
presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore
them, and carried them all the days of old (Yeshaya 63:9)
the word lo, the masora distinguishes between the form in
which the word is written and the form in which it is read. Chassidic thought,
in its usual manner, finds in this distinction fertile ground for inner
all their affliction, He was afflicted" the word lo read with a vav
gives expression to God's participation in Israel's affliction. Every
affliction that befalls Israel,
God forbid, God Himself experiences in its full intensity. This is the aspect
of "I will be with him in trouble" (Tehilim 91:15), which
consoles man with God's participation in his affliction.
their affliction, there is no affliction " the word lo written
with an alef undermines the idea of affliction. When one merits
profound understanding, contends the Sefat Emet, afflictions are not
afflictions "there is no affliction"! Affliction, like galut,
is an illusion and a falsehood; from the perspective of eternity, it has no
go down with you into Egypt and I will surely bring you up again" are not
two stages, argues the Sefat Emet, but rather two outlooks, two
perspectives, two ways of confronting the issue of galut.
aspect is "assistance in galut," for the recognition of God's
participation and intervention provides man with the strength to endure the
heavy burden of the afflictions of galut.
aspect is "redemption" because it denies the concept of galut
and wishes to utterly change our perception of it.
argues the Sefat Emet, is the aspect of the six days of the week, days
of action, whereas the second is the aspect of Shabbat, a day devoted entirely
to rest, an estate without bounds [metzarim], without affliction [tzar],
without Egypt [mitzrayim].
distinction between the six days of action, the Shabbat coming only in their
wake, and "the day which is entirely rest and repose," is the
question whether or not there exists a concept of galut, whether
everything is holy or perhaps there exists also the profane that covers the
light and prevents it from being revealed.
It seems that
the Sefat Emet at the end of the previous teaching wishes to allude that
while the level of Ya'akov Avinu, i.e., the aspect of Shabbat without bounds,
is an exceedingly high level, the second level that stands man against
concealment as concealment exposes intensive strength of enormous value the
power of faith.
proclaim your goodness in the morning, and your faithfulness at night"
the morning that shines with great light is entirely goodness. This light
illuminates the vitality of Ya'akov at all times and forever, with no end.
The night does
not illuminate but it exposes the power of faith that rests on the inner
recognition that this darkness is concealment of great light.
Sefat Emet teaches how God withheld revelation of the end from Ya'akov
and his sons. He cites an example from the Midrash of a king whose
friend wished to reveal his secrets. When he was about to reveal them, the king
stood before him, and his splendid glory, which was in plain sight of the
friend, did not allow him to reveal the secrets:
Therefore, the Shekhina
revealed itself to him, and because of the revelation, he was unable to
reveal the end, for that is only at a time of concealment. (Sefat Emet, Vayechi,
are times that the illumination of a great light makes it impossible to learn
from and reflect upon the small lights shining through the cracks, similar to "a
lamp at noon, how does it help?" (Chulin 60b).
upon the world of concealment often develops sensitivity, refinement and
attentiveness to the fine and almost inaudible tones that are scattered throughout
fine light, which does not appear in thunder and lightning, is comprehended by
the man of faith, who with his love succeeds in getting past the many curtains
that block the light.
may perhaps be suggested that the closing of the end and the concealment
towards which God pushed the sons of Ya'akov was intended to create within them
the faith that would allow them to reflect upon and listen to the world of the
"days of action" that is desperately waiting for a redeemer to raise
the sparks, albeit fine ones, hidden within it, someone who is concealed in
holiness and is entirely the aspect of redemption. Thus writes R. Tzadok
ha-Kohen of Lublin:
Just as every
nation has some unique evil, so too does it have some unique holy spark from
which it draws its vitality, as "And You invigorate all of them." For
were this not so, it would be as naught. The vitality of God, blessed be He, is
certainly something good, and for this comes galut to grasp that good
thing for Israel.
As it is brought (Zohar Teruma 152b) that in galut the Divine
profusion goes to the nations of the world, and Israel grasps the essence.
Certainly God's profusion goes to its kind and to the good thing found within
them. When Israel
grasps the essence, that good thing is extracted into them. (Tzidkat
ability to extract the sparks from every nation and to raise the entire world
to a higher level may be found in someone who is capable of descending to the galut
and maintaining his belief there.
according to this approach, constitutes a "trek" in the world of
concealment and a gathering of the lights concealed within it.
to this, Ya'akov's revelation of the end would have prevented the formation of
contact with the world of concealment, which is indeed itself a lie, but the
lights that it conceals are absolute truth, and this truth requires redemption.
"Truth will spring out of the earth" (Tehilim 85:12).
Nachman of Breslov appears to go one step further:
Know too that
the Torah enclothed in a concealment within a concealment is specifically
elevated Torah i.e., the hidden Torah. Because it has to be enclothed in such
lowly places i.e., with those who have sinned so extensively that it is
hidden from them within a double concealment God therefore arranged not to
enclothe the revealed Torah there, so that the evil forces would not be able to
nourish from there in abundance and the blemish be very great. He therefore
hides and enclothes there elevated Torah specifically, the hidden Torah this
being God's Torah itself so that the evil forces cannot nourish in abundance
corresponds to (Shemot 12:12) "I will pass through the land of
Egypt" I, and not an angel; I, and not a messenger "for I am
God" I, and no other. For in the land of Egypt, where the concealment
was very great, Israel was submerged in forty-nine gates of impurity, and so
specifically there God Himself i.e., the Torah itself without garments, the
absolute Torah of God, the hidden Torah is enclothed and concealed.
Therefore, specifically from the concealment within a concealment, when he
reconverts it to da'at, it specifically becomes the absolute Torah of
God; for the Torah of God, the hidden Torah, is concealed there, as explained
above. (Likutei Moharan Kama 56, 4)
Nachman proposes the idea that the very light that is concealed in "the
concealment within concealment" is the highest light.
descent to galut, according to this, permits the exposure of the supreme
light, for which "revelatory silence" is appropriate.
the revealed Divine light, there appears the revealed Torah, which is exposed
to all, and thus is appropriate for all.
contrast, the concealed Divine light, which appears only to one who has passed
the difficult test of belief of enduring the galut that lacks Divine
revelation, is a concealed light, and a concealed Torah stands within it, that
is appropriate for the elite.
then, is unavoidable; any attempt on the part of Ya'akov Avinu or anyone else
to prevent it is doomed to failure. However, it is precisely Ya'akov's aspect
of truth which prepares his sons for the test of faith required during the dark
days of the galut that raises Israel during the years of galut
and afterwards to a spiritual level that it never knew before. And it is only
through that truth that Israel will be able to merit the day that is entirely
rest and repose.
 Owing to the length of this
teaching of the Sefat Emet, we have divided it into several sections.
 That is to say, it does not
mark a specific point of time in history, but rather it is built into the
world, lying within from its very beginning to its very end.
 So writes also R. Nachman in
a different context: "The matter is as follows: He should see to it that
he raises all the sparks in all things, the sparks being letters, so that he
raises letters. And the letters become words, and through words abundant
goodness is profused upon Israel. But how can they reaise the sparks to God, blessed
be He? The suggestion is as follows. When one looks at something, one should
immediately believe with perfect faith that it contains letters and
sparks" (Likutei Moharan Kama 94). According to R. Nachman, one
does not have to do very much to reveal the light in everything. R. Nachman
teaches us that faith, which is essentially the insight and knowledge that
there is light in everything, as was taught us by the Besht, cancels the
concealment and raises the sparks. (Someone who wishes to delve into this matter
should examine teaching no. 282
in Likutei Moharan Kama, where R. Nachman proposes
that the very pleading of one's cause or someone else's cause raises that
person from culpability to acquittal even before he performs any action. It
seems that the aforementioned principle guides his words there as well.)
 Another example of this idea
is found in connection with the verse: "Know that the Lord He is God; it
is He who made us, and we belong to Him (lo with a vav)/and we
are nothing (lo with an alef); we are His people, and the sheep
of His pasture" (Tehilim 100:3). See Sefat Emet, Vayikra, Shabbat
 The Sefat Emet at the
end of the aforementioned teaching connects the two aspects to Yosef and Yehuda.
Yosef is the aspect of Shabbat and Yehuda is the aspect of the "days of
action." This expresses itself also in the blessings that the two received
from Ya'akov, in their actions, and in the differences between their respective
 Rav Kook discusses this
aspect of galut in several places. To a great degree, we can see how his
teachings are an application of this outlook, in that they "collect"
from the two-thousand year trek through the galut a perfect world that
builds the royal crown of God.
 It is not by chance that it
was on Mount Sinai, where the people of Israel merited Divine revelation, that
they received the written Torah which is revealed to all and directed to all,
and it was during the bitter days of galut, both in Eretz Israel and in
the Diaspora, that the profound and esoteric lore of Kabala, appropriate only
for the elite, was revealed and exposed.
(Translated by David