> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Straight Talk

Repairing the World

Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

Why don’t we know the date of the Messiah’s arrival?

The Messianic Era: world peace, brotherhood of man. It's lovely rhetoric; but surely, after a 20th century in which 'humanity' murdered more people than the previous 19 centuries combined, how can we Jews possibly believe that redemption can happen? Is God really just going to send this guy on a white donkey one day and suddenly everything will be sorted out? That seems naive and wishful thinking.

In this week's Torah portion, Jacob prophesies the date of the Messianic Era. He is not, however, permitted to tell his children. Why? Surely, there could be nothing more encouraging for the Jewish people throughout the ages than if we were to know there was a set time at which things would turn around. Why not give us that hope?

The point is that we Jews do not look at the Messianic era as something supernatural that God will impose upon the world. Rather, it is an ideal toward which the world must strive. We were given an imperfect world in order to perfect it. It's all too easy to blame God for the world's problems. It's human nature to shift the blame to others. The truth is, however, that for the vast majority of the horrors, we have only ourselves to blame.

We human beings are so concerned for with our own lives and our own worries that rarely do we bother to think about what can be done to perfect the world around us. So the world remains a mess and then, when there are problems, we blame God for creating a lousy world! It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

To think that the Messiah will be zapped into this world by God and suddenly all will miraculously change is childish fantasy. But to think that we cannot repair the world is adult cynicism.

Jacob could not give us a date because once a date is given, it is no longer in our hands. And Judaism says that it is entirely within our hands. The Messianic age is ours to create, not just to sit around and wait for. So let's get started.

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