Jealousy, Diversity and Redemption
Of Blessing and Jealousy
Our sages tell us that the tragic jealousy that grew in the brothers hearts towards their brother Yosef was rooted in the fact that Yacov had given Yosef a special gift, the unique striped coat, the k’tones passim. That being the case, how is it conceivable that when, at the end of his life, Yacov bestowed blessings on his children, that it seemed like some were clearly getting better blessings than others? After all, which would you rather be blessed to be like, a lion, or a snake? Was Yacov setting the stage for another round of sibling jealousy and rivalry?
Of Blessing and Clarity
But there is more going on here, something deep, something that is critical not just to the lives of the brothers, not just for each of us, but for all Am Yisrael as we continue to progress towards the geula shleima, the final redemption.
“All of these are the tribes of Israel—twelve—and this is what their father said to them: Each one he blessed according to his appropriate blessing.” (Braishis 49:28)
Each of Yacov’s blessings was custom designed to fit perfectly with the nature and character of each individual. Each one of the brothers was the bearer of a unique soul, responsible for a unique mission, and had a unique contribution to make to the family, the Am. Each one of the brothers had been granted a particular set of strengths, inclinations and abilities that were suited specifically to his make up and mission.
Jealousy and Self-Awareness
Is a computer technician jealous of a carpenter’s toolbox?
That was the brothers, and that is us. To the extent that each one of us is self-aware, to the extent that we have a sense of what makes us unique, and what we are particularly and especially capable of in this world, to that degree we will be immune to jealousy. Each of us has been put in this world to carry out a particular mission, and our lives; what they contain, what they don’t, and who we are, and are not, form our set of tools required for our unique task. God precision designed each of us, and to each He gave a custom designed workplace, and set of tools, to do what we need to do.
Of Blessings and Simcha
There is no joy, no feeling of fulfillment, like when a person feels that he or she is living in sync their “self,” their mission. There is no richer feeling that when a person feels that what they are doing—the inner light they are radiating—is a faithful expression of who they are. Jealousy is a direct outgrowth of being estranged from one’s self. A lack of self awareness leads inevitably to a desire to be like him or him or her, and to possess their toolbox, their life circumstance and skills, instead of one’s own.
Blessing and Rootedness
The power in a bracha, a blessing, is that it creates chibur, connection. A blessing connects and roots the recipient like a tree is rooted to the ground it grows from. A blessing connects and roots the recipient in his source, his Creator, in the One that made him exactly who he is, and endowed him with his particular, beautiful, ohr; his deep inner light.
In blessing his sons, Yacov was doing two things: First, he was teaching each one about his unique light, and in that context, he was also connecting each one to the unique shefa, the unique Godly “flow” and influence that was essential to fulfilling his mission, his birthright.
“And this is what their father said to them …”
Yacov carefully taught each one about who he was as a person; strengths, weaknesses, abilities, flaws, and capabilities, shortcomings and all. And, as a result, he was able to bless each one—
“According to his appropriate blessing.”
The Culmination of History
Our sages tell us that, in gathering his sons together, Yacov’s primary intention was to reveal to them what would transpire in the future of the Jewish people, “That which would happen to them in achrit ha’yamim, in the end of days.” (Braishis 48:1) However, as he was about to bless them, the Divine Presence left Yacov and he was unable to reveal what would be. Instead, he blessed them.
It would seem that in place of his first, preferred option, Yacov opted for an alternative, and substituted his blessings. But why? In what way were those blessings some sort of a substitute?
Achrit Ha’Yamim: The Culmination of History
To understand why the blessings weren’t just a second choice, but were actually an alternative path to the same goal, we need to understand something of what achrit ha’yamim is all about. Essential to achrit ha’yamim is that then the full, brilliant light—ohr—inherent in the vast potential of Am Yisrael will “shine” to it’s greatest extent. And for that to happen, the inner ohr inherent in every Jew, every facet of the nation, must also shine to it’s fullest.
This is the deep, inner meaning of geula, redemption. With redemption, the vast gamut of all the lights of Israel will shine and illuminate the world, for the great good and benefit of all mankind. That light will no longer be clouded by exile, it will be revealed, and it will be profoundly healing. Like a symphony, geula is the harmony of every individual understanding and expressing his or her deepest essence; understanding that without just one aware and emotive neshama, there is no shleima in the geula.
Harmony and Individuality
Our sages (B’raishis Rabba 5) tell us that the sons said to Yacov:
“Just like there is only One (meaning the unity of God) in your heart, the same is true for the One in our hearts.”
In blessing his sons, Jacob highlighted their individuality so that they could fully express their unique selves. At the same time, the sons told their father that while they understood that each was unique, that each had a particular contribution to make, and that indeed the differences between them were great, nonetheless, they also understood that at the deepest level, they were all rooted in the same source, the same makor, the same absolute, undifferentiated Echad-Unity. And that the two, the individuality and the unity work hand-in-hand. The deeper and more completely we understand our uniqueness, the special and particular parameters of who we are, and aren’t, the more we are able to clearly recognize the unique and beautiful parameters of one another, and thus to come together, to compliment and encourage one another, and together in harmony to create a unified light whose brilliance far transcends anything we could ever imagine on our own. And then, to be truly happy and fulfilled in the privilege of being part of that breathtaking, unified light.
Hashem gives strength to His nation, and God blesses
His nation with peace-shalom.” (Tehillim 29:11)
Strength is full, powerful expression of the unique individual.
Is that a contradiction to peace, is it each person out for herself?
No. That’s the path to shalom, to the overarching harmonization—not homogenization—of all Am Yisrael. And the bonding agent, so to speak, is Hashem. “Hashem gives strength.” Meaning, that when we understand that the beautiful strength of our individuality flows only from Hashem, from the common deepest source of all our individualities, then that recognition becomes the bond that unites us, the bond of shalom.
So did Yacov give up on revealing the achrit ha’yamim, the ultimate destination of his family? Hardly. Rather, instead of giving them a vision from above of what was to come, he taught them what they needed to understand and do in order to actualize that very same historic destination, down here, below, in the setting of our daily, earthly lives.
Galut, exile, is being out of touch with ourselves. When we are out of touch with our deep, individual selves, we certainly can’t be in touch with how to unite and compliment one another’s light. And so, as we strive to appreciate and value who we are as individuals, and to see all of our individualities as rooted in Hashem, then what we are doing is fostering and furthering the essence of geula; the unfolding process of redemption, the dawning of the fully radiant light of Am Yisrael on the stage of human history.
Translated by Shimon Apisdorf