ויקרא יעקב אל בניו ויאמר האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים.
“And Yakov called his sons and said, ‘Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days.” (Bereishis 49:1)
Rashi explains that Yakov wanted to reveal the time when the final redemption will take place, but Hashem withdrew His spirit from him to preclude this revelation; so Yakov began talking about other matters with his sons.
The holy Avos (forefathers) are called “the chariot of the Shechina.” Just as a chariot doesn’t travel on its own, but only goes where it is being driven, so too the holy Avos never did anything, went anywhere or said anything unless it was Hashem’s will. They always followed Hashem, totally and completely. If so, why did Yakov try to reveal the secret of the redemption, when Hashem did not want him to do so? Hashem withdrew His spirit from Yakov so that he should be unable to disclose what shouldn’t be revealed, but why did Yakov want to do something without Hashem’s approval in the first place?
Another difficulty arises from Rashi’s interpretation. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) says that “Israel will only be redeemed with repentance.” This means that the time of the redemption depends on the Jewish people’s complete repentance. There is no fixed time for the redemption, but it can happen any day, if only Klal Yisroel would do tshuva and return to Hashem. If so, how was it possible for Yakov to disclose the secret of the redemption, if it was not predetermined but depends on our actions?
We can understand this concept with the following story: A certain Jew was very close to the saintly Be’er Mayim Chaim. He would write down his Rebbe’s chiddushim (original Torah thoughts) in order to commit the Torah insights to paper. He once visited the holy Rizhiner Rebbe for Shabbos, and he was awed by the tzaddik’s sublime avodah. Before taking leave of the Rizhiner, he asked the Rebbe for personal guidance in avodas Hashem. That week was Parshas Vayechi, so the Rebbe told him the above-mentioned verse and gave the following interpretation: “At the end of days, Satan will cause ‘vayikra’ (literally ‘and he called’) which can mean cold. The yetzer hara will infect the Jewish people with a cool attitude to Torah and mitzvos. How will they overcome this assault by the yetzer hara? By “gathering and telling” – those loyal to Torah and mitzvos should gather in groups and tell each other stories of tzaddikim. They should inspire each other with anecdotes of our great forebears and teachers, especially on Friday nights. This will keep the Jewish people strong during those difficult times!” The Rizhiner added, “They may even tell stories about us… and it will also help them.” Before the Jew left the Rebbe’s room, the Rizhiner added three directives: “You should remember what I told you, you should fulfill it, and you should repeat it to others.”
The Avodas Yisroel points out that in the three sidras of Mikeitz, Vayigash and Vayechi, there is no mention of Hashem’s four-letter Name (הוי"ה), until the verse in Vayechi where Yakov says (Bereishis 49:18): “I yearn for Your salvation, Hashem!” In this verse, this Name of Hashem appears for the first time in these three sidras. The Avodas Yisroel asks why this obvious exclusion is not taken up by the commentators. When Moshe’s name is not mentioned in Parshas Tetzava, it is a cause for much discussion among the commentators. Why isn’t the omission of Hashem’s Name in these sidrasdiscussed by the meforshim?
He explains that in Parshas Mikeitz the Torah recounts how Yosef was extricated from prison and became the viceroy of a powerful empire. This began a chain of events that concluded with Yakov’s arrival to Egypt and the start of the Egyptian exile, as described in Parshas Vayigash and Vayechi. Hashem did not place His Name on the story of exile, until Yakov spoke about salvation. When it comes to the yeshua, the salvation, Hashem placed His Name הוי"ה in that verse.
We may add to this that the second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed due to sinas chinam – baseless hatred. In order to reverse the damage we must increase ahavas Yisroel – love for our fellow Jews. Yakov hinted at this in this verse. The first letters of the words ויקרא יעקב אל בניו - “And Yakov called his sons,” spell the word אויב – enemy, and the first letters of the last four words in the verse spell the word איבה - hatred. If there is disunity or hatred among the Jewish people, we must fulfill the remaining part of the verse to “gather together” – we must group together with achdus – unity.
Yakov wanted to reveal the secret of the redemption. There is a fixed time for Moshiach to come, regardless of Klal Yisroel’s status at that time. If the Jewish people will repent before that time, they will merit being redeemed sooner. Yakov wanted to reveal the fixed time, the time that will be the absolute latest for Moshiach to come. But as soon as he wanted to reveal this, Hashem withdrew His spirit, because it would be extremely shameful for the Jewish people if they would not merit being redeemed sooner by their own merits. Therefore, Hashem did not want Yakov to reveal that time. However, Yakov disclosed cryptically in this verse that the ultimate redemption depends on the unity of Klal Yisroel. If the Jewish people will keep together, as one unit, then we will merit the ultimate redemption, may it be speedily in our days.