| Parshah |

End of the Road

Our mission is to do our best to bring redemption nearer without calculating when our suffering will end


“…And Yaakov’s days, the years of his life, were a hundred forty-seven years.” (Bereishis 47:28)


The Torah is divided into paragraph-like passages, called parshiyos, which are separated by spaces. The word “Vayechi” begins a new parshah, yet there’s no space between the last word of Vayigash and the first word of Vayechi, thus creating a “closed-off” parshah.
Rashi explains that toward the end of his life, when Yaakov wished to reveal the end of the final galus to his sons, the answer was closed off, hidden from him. (Rav Moshe Wolfson)

It must have been the road that jogged my memory. I was driving along a back road that twisted through trees laden with autumn leaves in oranges, yellows, and browns. I was heading with my boys to a yishuv behind Yerushalayim to buy a catfish, fish food, and other aquarium necessities. The boys were chattering, and I was mentally calculating how much time I could allow them to enjoy the huge tanks of fish in the store before we had to get back for supper.

Rabbeinu Bechaye says that Yaakov looked at the names of the Shevatim and saw that the letters ches and tes were absent. If there was no chet — sin, among his children, he could reveal the time of the Geulah. However, Yaakov then saw that there was no kuf or tzaddik either, and he concluded that the keitz — the end — couldn’t be revealed.
A person’s name contains his mission in This World. The mission of the Shevatim was not to know the keitz; nothing would be accomplished by knowing when the galus will end.

As I slowed to a curve in the road, my mind suddenly jumped to another road, lined with similar russet-colored colorful trees, a road I’d traveled daily years ago, to and from my teaching job in Baltimore. Bais Yaakov’s stately campus was a good 20-minute drive along a back road that curved gracefully through a dense forest where the seasons were carved in the leafy archways above.

At 23, in those days, I was considered an Older Single. I was happy and busy with my job, friends, family, and a myriad of extra activities. I’d just joined a sign language course, was doing kiruv in John Hopkins University, and all was bright that lovely autumn day.

But as I turned onto that winding road, for a moment the future seemed bleak, on a path of dating that would never end. I imagined one curve winding its way to another, and as I rounded it, I’d be faced with yet a third, the road forever curving, sometime gracefully, sometimes sharply, but never would I reach its end.

I tried to switch my thoughts to a more optimistic mood. Maybe today the phone call will come and it’ll be the right one. All it would take was one suggestion that would bring my road to its vital destination.

But as the car wound its way through the familiar twists, my thoughts failed to comfort me, as it seemed this road would never end.

The Maharal teaches that the concealment of the end is part of the galus. When a person knows when his suffering will end, it’s much easier to bear. Not knowing when Mashiach will come makes the galus feel like it will last forever.
Whether in private suffering or our national galus, our mission is to do our best to bring redemption nearer, through prayer and trusting Hashem, without calculating when our suffering will end.

I was jerked back to the present by Yitzi loudly announcing that he wanted to buy a catfish as big as the bathtub.

“Mommy would never let us keep a catfish in the bathroom, would ya, Ma?” retorted Avi.

But Shloime took up the call and announced that we should put the catfish in the kiddie pool. Before I knew it, we’d reached the aquarium center, and the boys were piling out.

My thoughts were still jumbled as I joined them huddled around the huge tanks. I craved their presence, their warm little bodies as they jostled each other for a better view of the huge tropical fish.

“Let’s get a shark, Ma!”

I laughed out loud, knowing I was right here, right where I belonged on this stop in the road. I hoped I would remember this moment next time worry and fear of the future added twists to the road of my life, masking its destination.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 772)

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