Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yisroel's last will - Rav Hirsh on parshas Vayeyhi

Below is the last will of our father Yisroel as explained by Rav S.R. Hirsch.
The significance of those teaching can be appreciated only if we take under consideration that those were the last words of father of Jewish nation before he joined “his people”.

Bereyshis 48;3
“The nation (…) as a model nation, factually to establish the Truth that the one great personal and national calling which God has revealed in His Torah is not dependent on any particular kind of calling or trait, but that the whole of mankind in all its shades of diversity, can equally find its calling in the one common spiritual and moral mission and outlook in life. The division of the nation into separate tribes, and the resulting division of the Promised Land into different provinces for the different tribes, the diversity of whom is thus to be retained, is what is referred to here.”

“I have appointed you to bear the burden and the honor to be the one amongst your brothers, the one who, after my death, is to represent me, to be the head of the family and guide them, your brothers, my children whom I have wrenched away from the Amorite with "my sword and my bow", with that which — in contrast to Esau's sword — is my weapon, my spiritual force, and my spiritual work. Jacob says: See, I die, I have no great heritage to leave, and we are in a foreign country. God must first lead you back to our own land, there you will have nahalos here we have only bruchos and wishes. But what I have to bequeath, that I have given to you. That is the burden and the honor to be my successor in the leadership and responsibility of the family, to be the first over your brothers, over my children who are the only conquests I have made in my life, and whom I dispose of in dying. That, in the midst of the Amorite they became no Amorites, that I can now gather them all around me as my sons, as carriers-on of the name and calling of Israel, those are my trophies, my conquests and victory out of the hand of the Amorites.”

“Break away from everything to which you really do not belong, and find yourselves all united in the one common purpose. Be all taken up with that which is common to you all! Place yourselves all on one common footing! So that heospi demands the spiritual gathering together on the single point, for one single purpose — as our sages, accordingly, pithily explain it hatehuro! Literally it would read: Let yourselves be gathered up (i.e. by your common mission). (…)
So we have here two pronouncements: All of you together give yourselves up to your one purpose in life for I would picture to you what will happen to you at the end of time. Really, what will "call to you" at the end of time. Acharis must be differentiated from kotz. Kotz is the end, where something ceases; aharis is that which comes afterwards, after the other has ended. Here, accordingly, after the present development of time has run out, the legacy of days, the goal of world-history.
We know from what follows that Jacob was not having in mind the uniformity of his sons, but was thinking of them in their characteristic diversity. Hence: "different though you all are, if you will all give your-selves up entirely to the one spirit, I will reveal to you what the end of time will be for you". First one spirit must pervade all the sons of the Family of Jacob before the acharis hayamim – the days after end will come. It will not come before the heospi – unity has become a reality. Yea — perhaps — it will not even be conceived, understood, until then, and that is why only just short hinting references to the acharis hayamim follow.
Hikovtzi veshmi - Keep together and listen these two words from the mouth of the dying father contain the whole Jewish history until the acharis hayamim. Materially you are Bnai Yakov – sons of Jacob, a powerless minority. But because you are a powerless minority Hikovtzi, keep together, grow together, do not split up into parties, in kovetz, in unity lies your strength. And Shmi bnay Yacov – listen o sons of Jakob, only by one thing can the weakest material minority obtain the victory over the strongest majority, and that is spirit, mind, it is shimo - listening, it is by giving yourselves up to spirituality, hence shmi bnay Yacov, have an ear, get understanding for the spiritual, thirst for it, as the word itself means (shma is the spiritual tzema) drink deeply, absorb it!
Such is the testament of our Father Jacob. "Unity, concord; and spirit", therein he recognized the strength and life of his children, and "when the thirst for spiritual matters awakes in you, have thirst for nothing but the traditions of your father Israel", veshmo al Yisroel avichem. Drinking out of the Jewish well of spirituality, and harmoniously keeping together, that is the oldest legacy of our dying father, and the same call comes to us from our last prophet : Vehaemes vehasholom ahvo - Truth and peace you shall love (Zach. VIII.19).

“It is of the most profound importance that here, at once, at laying the foundation of the Jewish nation, a curse is laid on any and every transgression of the laws of morality and justice even if done in the interests of the public and the state. All other states and nations justify themselves by the principle that public and state interests sanctify everything. Cunning, trickery.-and force, which in private life would be punished with prison and gallows, are rewarded with civic honors and medals, the laws of morality only exist for private life, but in politics and diplomacy the only code recognized is the interests of the party or state. The original testament for the Jewish nation here lays a curse on all trickery and violence even if practiced for the most justified cause in the public interest, and perpetuates the teaching that even in public life and in the public interests, not only the end but the means too must be pure. In no case does the end justify the means.”

The time will come when the spirit of Judaism seems to have come to its end, and the world at large, have become worn out and dull, have lived through everything, tried and tested everything, feels that some new regenerating spirit must come, and this, that last sprout from the stem of Judah will bring.

11. So Jacob visualizes Mashiah - the Messiah, and how does he see him? He sees the savior of mankind, the conqueror of nations, not on a steed, but on a young donkey. The "donkey" is always used to represent peaceful well-being, peaceful national greatness, whereas "steed" is used to represent military might. (…)It is the animal that carries people at a leisurely pace and bears his packs and baggage for him. Thus the Jewish conception of the power of kings is not to be represented by horses. The Jewish Kings were prohibited by the Torah to have leharbos sus – many horses. A Jewish King was also not to be chosen until after yerisha veyeshiva, after the complete conquest and settlement in the land, expressly not primarily for military purposes, and it was just in that that the sin of the people lay in Samuel's time, that they demanded a king to lead them in the wars defending the land, as Samuel reproached them Ch. XII. 12.
That is why here the one real true king, saving Yisroel and mankind appears on donkey Two points are stressed with this picture painted here of the future time. The king of mankind does not ride on a charger, but on a donkey, so he comes as the King of Peace, and he ties up his animal to a vine. If one can tie an animal, and especially an ir the lively mettlesome young donkey, to a vine, it is a sign of an infinitely increased development in nature (the vine stem growing like that of a tree), and in general of immense prosperity and abundance. Abundance in an infinitely increased blessing in the world of nature, and peace in the world of mankind are the two signs that always characterize this final age in the mouth of our prophets. As long as the animal of peace is not placed in its true worth, the leaders of men always represented on horseback, on chargers, and as long as one does not tie up one's animals to vines, for so long are we still a long way off from the promised regeneration of the world of nature and the world of Man.”

Thus he sees his final generation, sees the return of paradise on earth, the whole of nature rejuvenated as it was at the beginning, the subjugators and slayers of men no longer regarded as heroes, no drop of blood on the garments of its great men, and he sees this generation, with eyes more sparkling than wine, the joy of life shines from their eyes, their white teeth prove their health. This was something of the acharis hayomim, of which Jacob probably would have liked to reveal more to his sons, had he been permitted to do so.”

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