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And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years. (Bereishis 47:28)
Commenting on this posuk, Rashi notes that this parsha is stumah. Normally in the Torah, there is a blank space of nine letters between the different sections of the Torah but here there is none. Rashi proceeds to give two separate homiletic reasons as to why this parsha is stumah. The first reason is because with Yaakovs death the galus commenced and due to the hardships of the galus, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people closed. The second reason is because Yaakov wished to reveal the time when moshiach would arrive but was prevented from doing so with the sudden departure of the Divine Presence.
Upon analyzing Rashis first explanation that the hearts and eyes of the Jewish people were closed due to the onset of the galus, we may ask, exactly how is this reflected in the lack of blank space between the two sections? In answer to this question the commentators (Or Gedalyaho) explain that generally the reason there is space between the different sections of the Torah is to teach us that one should not attempt to learn the entire Torah without interruption. One must stop between the sections in order to absorb and reflect upon its teachings and messages. In the words of chazal this is called revach lhisbonain bain inyan linyan, which is loosely translated as, open space [is provided in order to give one a chance] to contemplate between one topic and the next. A tragic aspect of galus is that due to our troubles and hardships we lack the presence of mind that would enable us to contemplate on our purpose in life and the significance of the events that occur around us. We lack revach lhisbonen In parshas vayechi the galus commenced and in order to highlight this, the opening posuk lacks revach lhisbonen.
With this in mind, let us suggest that Rashis two different explanations are really linked. They are two sides of the same coin.
The redemption of the Jewish people from the exile of Egypt it was not a sudden occurence. The redemption occurred in two stages. Chazal tell us that on Rosh Hashanah we were freed from the hard labor, but it was not until six and a half months later, on the fifteenth of Nissan, that we actually left Egypt. We may ask, what is the significance of these two stages? Why didnt Hashem just orchestrate the redemption so that we would leave Egypt suddenly? The answer is that redemption is not just the attainment of freedom. In order for us to understand the significance of the event, Hashem provided us with a six and a half month grace period in which we were free to focus on what was about to occur. This period is what we refer to as revach lhisbonen.
Rashis first reason was explained above. Now we may understand how the second reason immediately follows. A prerequisite for any redemption is the revach lhisbonen period, as we have seen in our redemption from Egypt. Therefore, because the hearts and eyes of Yaakovs children were closed with the onset of galus they lacked the revach lhisbonain that was necessary for an appreciation of geulah. Thus, Yaakovs children could not appreciate the significance of the ultimate redemption, and therefore Yaakov was prevented from revealing to them the details of the geulah. The two explanations of Rashi are closely related. In galus there is no loss of revach lhisbonen. Without revach lhisbonen we cannot appreciate the significance of the end of days and are therefore prevented from knowing in advance when moshiach will come.
Let us bring a proof to the relationship of these two ideas from megillas Esther. When Mordechai attempted to persuade Esther to be instrumental in saving the Jewish people he warned her that if she did not help, the Jewish people would be saved without her and only she would be the one to suffer. A simple translation of his words are, Revach, and help, will come for the Jews from another source. We may ask, what did Mordechai add with the word revach. Why didnt Mordechai simply say that, help would come from another source? The answer is that an integral aspect of redemption is the grace period that comes before the actual redemption. This grace period allows time for introspection. Therefore, Mordechai first said revach and then help. We see here that the two ideas of Rashi are linked. The theme of Mordochais instructions is redemption. This is similar to the second reason given by Rashi, a reference to the ultimate redemption. Yet, the posuk refers to redemption with the word revach which is the word and concept that was used to explain Rashis first reason. The message is that without revach lhisbonain there can be no redemption.
In this vein, let us explain a prayer that we recite every Monday and Thursday in tachanun. We ask Hashem to show us a sign for good. We may ask, what exactly are we praying for. Most of our prayers are filled with explicit requests for salvation and redemption. However, this prayer implies that we are asking for something that comes before the actual salvation. We seek a sign that salvation is on the way even though it has not yet arrived. What exactly is the nature of this request?
The letter tes in the Hebrew alphabet literally represents the number nine. However, it is also a symbol for the word good. This is because the first time the letter tes appears in the Torah, it is found in the first letter of the word tov, which is translated as good. The amount of space that is missing in the beginning of our parsha is the blank space of nine, i.e., tes letters. As explained, this blank space symbolizes our lack of revach lishbonain. Further, the Hebrew word for sign or omen is oas which also can be translated as a letter of the alphabet. If we now take this prayer more literally, it may be translated as a request that Hashem show us a letter for tov. As mentioned above, tov also represents the number nine. Now we may revise the translation as show us a letter for nine. Were do we find the concept of a hidden letter that also is related to the number nine that we now yearn to see? The answer is the nine blank spaces that are missing in between vayigash and vayechi. We ask Hashem to widen the gap between the two sections and show us the revach. We ask Hashem to fulfill the words of Mordechai Revach and help will come. We ask Hashem to grant us revach lhisbonain, a sign for good, the revach which is the precursor to the actual salvation.
May we merit to see the revach between the sections and the ultimate geulah.