On his deathbed, surrounded by his sons, Yaakov was going to reveal a prediction about the future messianic era. But at that very moment, he lost that revelation and then proceeded to bless his sons. However, Yaakov did reveal a glimpse of the Messianic Age in this week’s Parshah.
As Yaakov blessed his son Yehudah, he states, “The scepter (kingdom) shall not depart from (the tribe of) Judah, or a scholar from among his descendants, until when Shilo arrives, and he will be an assemblage for nations.” (Genesis 49:10) The term ‘Shilo,’ according to Talmudic and Midrashic sources, refers to the Messianic Age. One commentator, the Seforno, states that the term ‘Shilo’ means ‘peaceful,’ which implies the true peace and harmony that will accompany the Messianic Age. The words from that sentence, “And he will be an assemblage for nations” describes that during the Messianic Era, members of nations will gather near the messiah for inspiration, and to show their obedience. (Rashi, Radak, Ibn Ezra, HaEmek Davar) It will be clear to the nations of the world that there is One G-d who gave the Jews the eternal Torah. The commentary of the Midrash on this verse, “And it will be on that day that the descendant of Jesse (the Messiah) will stand as a banner for the peoples, nations will seek him.” (Isaiah 11:10)
The word for “assemblage” in the sentence, “And he will be an assemblage for nations,” also has a different connotation. The Midrash Raba, expresses another view that the word spoken by Yaakov, “Yikhat” can also be translated as ‘blunting.’ According to that opinion, Yaakov was saying that, “The Messiah will come and ‘blunt the teeth’ of all the nations.” That term implies refutation. The Midrash cites a sentence, that as a result of the rebuke, “They will place a hand over their mouths; their ears will become deaf.” (Michah 7:16) The Messiah will refute the accusations leveled against the Jews and castigate the nations for their persecution of the Jews over the centuries.
Similarly, according to the Ramban, the word, “Yikhat,” ‘assemblage’ is derived from the word Koheh which means ‘pressure’ or ‘weakening’. Of the several sources the Ramban cites, one is from the Mechilta and quoted in the Passover Haggadah passages pertaining to the four sons, which states that the wicked son should have his teeth blunted, from the same root word, “Koheh.’ In other words, the wicked son should be strongly refuted. Likewise, the rebuke of the messiah will weaken the nations.
One interpretation of a difficult word implies coalescence, the other a punishment yet, they can be reconciled. When the Messiah arrives, and when the Jews are all together as one in their homeland, the miracles of this era will make it abundantly apparent to the nations, that he is indeed the Messiah, and that the adherence of the Jewish people to their traditions were righteous. They will converge upon Jerusalem to seek his wisdom. But thousands of years of persecution of Hashem’s people are not simply expunged. Not only will it be abundantly apparent to the nations of the world that their deeds were evil, but there will a reckoning, and rebuke for the false accusation, lies, pogroms, expulsions, and massacres.
Throughout his life in his visions, struggles and dreams, Yaakov foresaw the long and arduous history of the Jews, and he also caught glimpses of the Messianic Age. He foresaw the pain and sorrows of exile, as well as the joy of redemption. He also foresaw the connections of the nations of the world to those monumental events.
May we merit the final redemption, speedily in our days.
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