By Rav Rafi Ostroff
The brachot that Yaakov Avinu blessed some of his sons have hidden and mysterious meanings. The following blessing to Yehuda is all but shouting out to us, here is a secret:
לֹא יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה וּמְחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו עַד כִּי יָבֹא שִׁילֹה וְלוֹ יִקְּהַת עַמִּים: אֹסְרִי לַגֶּפֶן עִירוֹ (כתיב עירה) וְלַשּׂרֵקָה בְּנִי אֲתֹנוֹ כִּבֵּס בַּיַּיִן לְבֻשׁוֹ וּבְדַם עֲנָבִים סוּתוֹ (כתיב סותה) :
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of grapes”. (Bereshit 49:10-11)
It is nearly impossible even to translate this sentence and to be true to the original Hebrew meaning.
The Ohr Hachayim on this pasuk says that we know that there are two kind of redemptions: a positive redemption, if we are full of Torah learning as hinted in the word “wine”. If we will be full of Torah, then the redemption will appear in a way that all the nations will be subservient to Am Yisrael.
But, if we do not merit, then the redemption will appear in a way that is hinted by the word “ass” or in the words of the gemara: “a poor person riding an ass”. In reality, Hashem will bring upon us “a king worse then Haman”.
What king can be worse than Haman? Haman tried to kill our whole nation but did not succeed. A king worse than Haman, maybe will be someone that succeeds (even partially) as we have unfortunately seen in our time.
The Rebbe of Housiatin*, Rabbi Yaakov Friedman, writes that meriting to be worthy of a lekatchila (positive) redemption can be objective or relative. Meaning, Am Yisrael, can merit the redemption, but it’s merits can be not objective, that they are all connected to Torah, but only in relation to the behavior of other nations. He said (in 1940), that if we compare Am Yisrael to the other nations at the time, it is obvious that we are worthy of redemption. He relates a tale, that the Jews of Vienna, were commanded by the wicked government (he tried to refrain from mentioning them by name) to hand over all their jewelry and gold. A woman was standing there and sobbing. A young bareheaded Jew looked at her and said: “what are you crying about? I am happy that I am a Jew and have the zechut to bring sacrifices as one”. This, the Rebbe, explains is our relative Zechut today, that merits that we will be redeemed positively and quickly as possible.
We pray that we will be worthy of his payer and words.
* The Rebbe of Housiatin was a direct descendant of Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin who was a direct descendant of Dov Ber of Mezeritch. He came to Eretz Yisrael before the Holocaust with his Father in Law, and became the Rebbe after his death. His main book is called “Oholaei Yaakov” and is full of Torah, which we would define today as Religious Zionism, stemming from Chasidut. He supported the State of Israel and even became a member of the Mizrachi party.