"And Jacob called his sons
and said, 'Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in the last
days…The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from
between his feet until he comes to Shilo and the homage of the peoples be
his" (Genesis 49:1-11).
"Until he comes to
Shilo." Commentators disagreed about what this Shilo is. Rashi and Chazal
in Midrash Rabbah interpret it as "the Messiah King, for the kingdom is
his." (As was their way, they played with words and shilo was
changed to shelo--his.) That is, the kingship will not depart from Judah
until the Messiah arrives.
If so, according to their
interpretation, Jacob erred in his prophecy, for the scepter (kingship) has
already departed from Judah while the Messiah has not yet come. Ramban noticed
this question and wrote, "It does not mean that the scepter will never
depart, for it is written ‘G-d will lead you and your king…’ and here, they and
their king are in exile… But this means that the scepter will never depart from
Judah unto one of his brothers." (That is, until the Messiah arrives, if
there is a king he will only be from the tribe of Judah and not from another
In his explanation of our Father
Jacob's words, Ramban went and with the wave of a hand negated the verse,
"And if you say in your heart, 'how shall we know this thing which G-d has
not said, while the prophet said it in the name of G-d?' If the matter shall
not happen and shall not be, it is something which was not said by G-d." As
Rambam wrote, in his introduction to the Mishnah commentary, "And when the
prophet is worthy of prophecy…and if he lies about it, or one thing, even a
small thing, does not come to pass, then we shall know that he is a false
prophet." Jacob said that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, and
kingship had certainly departed from Judah.
To what can the Ramban's
explanation be compared? To a prophet who predicts rain will fall three days
hence, and on the third day G-d removes the sun from its covering. Instead of
concluding that the prophet is false, we will use the Ramban's method and say
that the prophet meant that if it were to be a wintry day then rain and not
snow and hail would fall, but now, as it is a summery day, there is no
contradiction in his prophecy. And understand this well.
But Rashbam has a different
interpretation. "Until Judah comes to Shilo (the city) – speaks of
Rechavam the son of Shlomo who renewed the kingdom in Shilo" (and even
though Rechavam renewed the kingdom in Shechem, Rashbam wrote that Shechem is
close to Shilo). And further Rashbam wrote that, "This simple meaning is
an answer to heretics, that it is not written about anything but the city of
Shilo" (we do not know to which heretics he refers), "and not 'his'
as the Hebracists (Rashi and Chazal), and not a messenger, as the Christians
have it." Know that Rashi, on II Chronicles 10:15, interpreted as did the
Rashbam, his grandson, and not as did Chazal (it is possible that Rashi is
upholding the words of his grandson the Rashbam as we cited in Parshat Vayeshev), "He took from him 10
tribes and gave them to Yerovam, and this is what is meant by 'the scepter
shall not depart from Judah’ - his kingdom did not diminish until he came to
Shilo, the answer is until Judah came to Shilo, to crown there Rechavam…and
there the kingdom was divided and he lost reign over the ten tribes."
See this wonder, the prophecy of
Jacob for later days is interpreted as something and as its opposite: According
the Ramban, "the scepter shall not depart from Judah" means the
kingship will not pass to another tribe. According to Rashi and the Rashbam's
interpretation "shall not depart" is until Rechavam comes, and then
the kingship does pass on to another tribe…
This is what we must demand of
the prophet before he begins to prophesize, that his language be spoken clearly
so we know what he means and can check if he is a true prophet whose prophecy
comes about or, G-d forbid, a false prophet.
And this testing must be done
for all our prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. First we must see if their words
are clear and then check if all their words came about. You, who seek truth,
arise and examine and see strange things.
And since we have come to the
issue of the Messiah, there is something to be said about it. The Gemara in
Sanhedrin 98a does not seem to relate to our holy Messiah with proper respect;
they even ask what the Messiah is named. "In the study hall of Rav Shila
they say his name is Shilo, as is said, 'until he comes to Shilo.' In the study
hall of Rav Yannai they say Yanon is his name…In the study hall of Rav
Channanyah they say Channayah is his name." And Rashi wrote that each one
interpreted based on his own name.
Each sticks his own name onto
the Messiah and the name of the Messiah is so turned, in the eyes of the
Amoraim, into parable and absurdity.
If this is not enough, according
to Rabbi Hillel there isn't any Messiah for Israel, for they already used him
up in the days of Chizkiyahu. Rashi explained "that Chizkiyahu was the
Messiah and about him were all the prophecies said." (For the prophets did
not speak clearly and one can not definitely know about which period they
And from Rav Hillel's stance
Rabbi Yosef Albo, in Sefer HaIkarim, article one chapter one, deduced,
"Without a doubt, Rabbi Hillel did not believe at all in the coming of the
Messiah and even so was not counted among the apostates, as the coming of the
Messiah is not an essential belief in the Mosaic Torah." This is an
amazing thing. If there is no Messiah there is no Redemption and no
Resurrection of the Dead, and if so, why do we labor?
In Tractate Avodah Zara 9b,
"Rabi Chanina said, four hundred years after the destruction of the
Temple, if a man tells you, 'take a field worth a thousand dinar for a single
dinar,' don't take it." Rashi explains that it is the time of the
Redemption and you will gathered to His holy mountain, to your father's
portion, and why should you lose the dinar…!
More than 1900 years have passed
and there is no time of Redemption and the Messiah has not come. Well said
Shmuel the son of Nachmani, quoting R' Yochanan, (Sanhedrin 97b) 'Let the
spirit of those calculating the end be blown out, for they would say: for the
end had come, and he [the Messiah] had not, he will not come again'. "
They have already calculated every possible end and nothing has come, nothing
Words of True Knowledge