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    Molding your own destiny – Vayyechi

    Jacob blesses his sons, by Adam van Noort, c. 17th century

    Jacob blesses his sons, by Adam van Noort, c. 17th century

    On his death bed Jacob wants to reveal the future to his children – “Gather and let me tell you what will befall you at the end of days” – but God prevents this from happening (Rashi on Gen. 49:1).

    We can understand that knowing the future might not be good for us, but if so why does Jacob now proceed to spell out the destiny of each one of his children in turn?

    Surely that is a contradiction of the sages’ comment that the Divine Presence departed from the patriarch and he turned to other matters.

    Actually it is not such a contradiction. What Jacob begins by wanting is to tell the story in the passive – “what will befall you at the end of days”, what history will do to them in years to come.

    The change that comes about when he turns to each child individually is the implication that history will not just happen to them but they will make it themselves.

    Each child has a duty to recognise their own character with all its strengths and failings. Each one will make and mould their own destiny.

    The Children of Israel collectively are responsible for their own future. The question is not what history will do them but what they will do to history.

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