The idea that the blessings do not determine the future, but merely describe it, is reinforced by Yaakov in chapter 49. “Gather, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days.” If so, what’s the point? His words would seem to have no prescriptive value, both because they speak of the distant future, and because they are, like a good horoscope, so vague that the listener can always retroactively impose the interpretation that best suits them.
But there are two explicit prescriptions which Yaakov charges to his sons, and they are important enough that they are each repeated twice. At the end of his days, Yaakov’s great challenge is to leave his sons with two things they must do: to gather, and to listen.
The fact that Yaakov gathers all twelve sons together to bless them, quite in contrast to his own experience, is already a powerful message. Whatever he will say to each son, each one is present, blessed, chosen. This is the moment when Yaakov overcomes the zero-sum game of chosenness and rejection that has characterized all of Breishit, and the moment that Bnei Yisrael as an entity can be born.
But gathering (he’asfu) alone can’t accomplish that. In order to come together (hikavtzu), the brothers also need to listen carefully to Yaakov, and to hear that each brother has his unique place and role. The only way to overcome the destructive competition to be the chosen one is to articulate a vision in which there are many ways to be chosen.
But even this is not enough. Even the greatest supporters of diversity can sometimes delimit acceptable borders within easy, comfortable parameters. And so Yaakov’s vision first and foremost finds a place for the most destructive, problematic forces within the big tent of chosenness.
Gather. Listen. Yaakov’s vision for the end of days is profound, and radically pluralistic.
My own little daily 929 insight, in 300 words or so. What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il