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Why can't we know everything in advance?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Dr. Rakefet Ben-Yishai, a Bar Ilan University biologist, writes as follows:

"We are all familiar with difficult periods in life when we simply want to say: 'I am going to sleep. Wake me up when it's all over.' In times like these it would be so much easier to know that the end will be good, how everything will work itself out, and especially when...

The children of Israel are on the cusp of a long and difficult exile in Egypt. In this week's Torah portion, we read that Yaakov Avinu is ready to reveal to his sons before his death when the end of the exile will come, to explain when and how everything will end, but God prevents him from knowing. The question is why.

Long and difficult processes such as exile are meant to build ourselves up, to rise to new heights, for positive forces to grow within us and bring us to rectify something in ourselves and in the world. There is concern that if we know exactly when and how everything will end, we will live with passivity and complacency. We will simply feel that everything will somehow work itself out in the end, and will not do the practical and spiritual work which striving for redemption is all about.

People would want to know when they would marry, when they would merit to have children, or when their dreams would come true. Yaakov says to his sons that there will be an end, it will be good, but the details are hidden and obscure. There is no knowing when and how salvation will come, he tells his sons, so that the responsibility for bringing it rests on their shoulders. They are called upon to try harder, to clarify what they must rectify, what they must prioritize and what kind of internal strengths they must develop, to understand how to act and what needs to be done in order to bring the redemption.

This is a heavy responsibility and often frustrating, but by shouldering it we change from passive people desperate for salvation to drop down on us from heaven to true partners in bringing good to ourselves and to the world. B'hatzlacha."


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