Last week’s Torah reading begins with Jacob (Yaakov) on his death bed giving his last message to his sons. Rashi explains that Jacob planned to reveal to them when Moshiach will arrive and what will occur then but it became hidden from him so he instead blessed them.
But, in fact, he did reveal a little about Moshiach to one son; he blesses his fourth son, Judah that Moshiach will issue from his seed, his land will produce much wine and that his offspring will be red-eyed from drinking it.
What type of blessing is this?
Why is it in the Torah? What does it teach us?
Why was Judah different?
What is the connection between Moshiach and wine?
And what is the importance of having bloodshot eyes from drinking?
Also, near the end of the reading (49:33) Rashi informs us that Jacob really did not die! As the Talmud (Taanis 5b) explains that he only APPEARED to be dead, embalmed and buried but he, in fact, is still alive. And this is a hint at the raising of the dead when we will see that no one REALLY dies.
Does this make sense? Is there a connection to Moshiach, wine and red-eyes?
To understand this here is a shocking story
Some one hundred and fifty years ago in Pressburg Germany there lived a rich Jewish factory owner with his wife and three daughters who was a very kind man. He gave much of his wealth to charity until tragedy struck.
In the prime of life he suffered a fatal heart attack leaving his wife alone to care for the family and manage his affairs the most immediate of which was finding someone to say Kaddish for him after his burial.
(It is a Jewish custom that after one’s passing his/her sons say a special praise of G-d called ‘Kaddish’ three times a day for 11 months, and say it again three times on every anniversary day of the passing. but this man had no sons, only three daughters.)
She found a young man from a nearby Yeshiva (Torah academy) to say the Kaddish but a thought crossed her mind. What about all those Jews who pass away and have no one to say Kaddish for them?
It so bothered her that she went back to the Yeshiva, asked to speak to the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) and told him that she wanted to pay for a ‘general’ Kaddish to be said for all those people for whom Kaddish is not being said.
The Dean agreed, another young Talmudic student was paid to say a ‘general mourner’s Kaddish’ for that coming year. And so it continued for the next several years.
But then she experienced another tragedy. Her finances took a turn for the worse; in fact, for the worst.
Almost overnight her business failed and she found herself deep in debt, three daughters to marry off – and …. What about the Kaddish?
The whole thing was a nightmare.
She decided to trust in G-d. ‘Next year will be better’ she told herself as she begged her creditors to be patient, took the small remnant of her jewellery to the pawnbroker and got enough money to pay for one more year of Kaddish and the rest to barely live on.
But the next year things were even worse. The creditors became more demanding, her daughters kept getting older and the oldest just got a very serious offer for marriage.
With a heavy heart she returned to the yeshiva begged the Dean to agree to say just one more year of Kaddish promising she would pay later and left the building depressed and heartbroken?
As the door closed behind her and she was standing in the street she burst into tears.
Then, as though from nowhere, a well-dressed elderly man approached her and said, “Excuse me, but is everything all right?
Did something happen?
Perhaps I can be of assistance?”
He seemed so kind and sympathetic that she poured out her entire sad story. What did she have to lose?
“How much money do you need?” He asked when she finished. “That is, to pay all the debts marry your daughter off and support yourself for another year?”
She smiled at the question; surely he wasn’t serious. It would take a small fortune. He wouldn’t be able or want to pay such an amount. After all she never saw this man before in her life.
“How much?” she said quietly, wanting to end the conversation, “I’m afraid it would be several thousand – at least fifteen thousand marks!” she replied; “But now I must be going. Thank you so much for your interest. I’m sure G-d will help.”
“Just one minute!” he said as she turned to go. He pulled out a cheque book, found something to rest it on and when he finished writing said. “Here! Please, it’s for you.”
He said loudly enough to keep her from leaving, then handed her a check…… for twenty thousand marks!
As she stood there astounded, wondering if it was all a dream or perhaps some sort of trick, he continued,
“It’s a large sum. You can cash it in the bank down the block. Go to the manager, but I’m sure he will want witnesses. I haven’t got time to go there with you, I must be on my way, but we can get witnesses from the Yeshiva here.” He opened the door of the Yeshiva and asked her to follow him in and to please hurry.
They went up the stairs to the large learning hall. It was almost empty as it was lunch break.
Only two conscientious pupils remained learning. The elderly man walked up to them, produced identification, explained that he wanted witnesses; they signed the back of the check he returned it to the woman and told her to hurry to the bank before it closed.
Still not totally believing this was for real, she thanked him profusely, ran down the stairs, then to the bank, showed the check to one of the tellers and was referred to the manager.
Once in the manager’s office, just catching her breath, she presented him with the check and when he saw it his eyes opened in amazement.
He looked at her then at the check then back at her again. He did this several times until he leaned forward and asked in an unusually serious and quiet voice. “Where did you get this check? Who signed this? Is this some sort of joke? Who gave you this? What did he look like?”
She explained the whole miraculous chain of events and pointed to the signatures of the two witnesses on the check.
“Where are these people?” he asked “I want to see them.”
Moments later they were standing in the yeshiva. The young men readily verified their signatures and described the elderly man. The manager shook their hands, thanked them and headed back to the bank with the woman.
All the way he was strangely quiet, looking repeatedly at the signature on the check and occasionally wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. When they returned to the bank and had the money transferred to her account he was constantly whispering to himself and wiping the sweat from his brow.
When she asked if everything was all right he asked her to sit down and began.
“The man who signed that check was my father.”
He wiped his brow again, again looked at the check and almost whispered “He passed away four years ago.”
“Just last night he appeared to me in a dream and reprimanded me for leaving the Torah and its commandments. He even said that if it wasn’t for some woman that didn’t even know him no one would even say Kaddish for him. He was really angry, but I didn’t take it seriously. After all it was only a dream. So I thought!
“But I was wrong. Now I see that my father is not as dead as I thought! The one that is really dead is me. I left G-d for money.
I have decided to start doing what G-d wants and not just what I want. I swear that from today on I will do what my father wanted, what G-d wants: I’m returning to Judaism.”
[The two witnesses were Reb Yehoshua Grunwald who became head Rabbi of Austro-Hungary and Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who became the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The author claims the story was verified by Rabbi Sonnenfeld’s great grandson].
This answers our questions about Judah, Moshiach, wine and death.
Just as the banker’s father rose from the dead in our story so too will occur to every Jew (the word Jew comes from Judah). It is the last of Maimonides’s 13 principles of faith.
We find an example of this in the Talmud (Ketuvot 104a) that after Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (the Moshiach of his generation some 1,800 years ago) was dead and buried, he returned home each Shabbat to make Kiddush for his family!
And in Talmud Sanhedrin 98b it says that Moshiach (who will facilitate the raising of the dead) will himself come from the dead!
So death is not as real while life is infinitely MORE real than we think they are!
But only Moshiach will make it happen. And Moshiach will come from the tribe of Judah because Judah represents total devotion to the wisdom and will of the Creator (Gen. 30:35)
As Maimonides writes; Moshiach descend from King David (tribe of Yehuda) and will inspire every Jew to return to G-d’s Torah (G-d’s wisdom) and its commandments (G-d’s will). And when the Jews do what that it will refine the entire creation to the degree that even death will cease.
And that is the deeper meaning of the tribe of Judah being “red-eyed from wine”. ‘Red’ implies being enflamed and excited, Eyes refer to one’s goals and desires in life, and wine refers to the G-dly secrets of the Torah.
Moshiach, through the Holy Torah mysteries he will teach (wine of Torah), will ‘redden the eyes i.e. inflame the desires and goals of all the Jewish people (and eventually all mankind) with the love of G-d. (see Torah Or of Chabad pg 47).
That is why Jacob did not die: he opened the way for the true eternal nature of life thereby correcting the sin of Adam which brought death to the world. Therefore, the only son he mentioned Moshiach to was Judah; because Moshiach, who will come from Yehuda (Judah), is going to really make it happen.
This is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe means when he said that if we open our ‘eyes’ we will see that Moshiach is here. He meant we should be so inflamed with the love of the Creator and the desire to reveal His presence in the world that we will do everything in our power, to make it happen.
But today not much is missing; we are standing on the ‘shoulders’ of thousands of years of Jewish self-sacrifice.
Now just one more good deed, word or even thought can bring blessing to the world and even raise the dead with Moshiach NOW!!