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Come and I will advise you what these people will do to your people in the end of the days (Bamidbar 24:14).
In the Torah we find only two people who prophesized about the end of the days. They are Yaakov and Bilaam. With regard to Yaakov the posuk says, “Yaakov called for his sons and said assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you at the end of the days,” (Bereishis 49: 1). With regard to Bilaam the posuk says “Come and I will advise you [what to do to these people and] what these people will do to your people in the end of the days (Bamidbar 24:14, see Rashi and Targum). It is noteworthy the contrast of expression used to describe the “end of the days” by both Yaakov and Bilaam. Yaakov described the end of the days with an emphasis on what will happen specifically to the Jewish people. Indeed the posukim proceed to enumerate Yaakov’s spiritual blessings to his children and their descendents that will fully mature at the end of the days. In contrast, Bilaam’s emphasis was on what the Jewish people will do to the nations of world. Bilaam’s prophesy described the military might and conquest of the Jewish people at the time of the end of the days.
Hashem revealed to both Yaakov and Bilaam the same snapshot of the “end of the days,” yet they both saw something different. Yaakov saw the spirituality of the Jewish people whereas Bilaam saw the mundane physical and political prowess of the Jewish people. A person sees what he wants to see. Yaakov, a spiritual giant saw spirituality. Bilaam, a power hungry egomaniac saw power and honor.
Everyday we recite the shemah. The words of shemah are “Hear O’ Israel Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one. The simple interpretation of this posuk is: Hashem who is recognized today only by the Jewish people as G-d of the world will ultimately be recognized by all of mankind as G-d. This will occur in the end of the days.
It is noteworthy that Yaakov was blind when he called together his children in order to reveal his vision of the end of the days and bless them. The posuk says and Yisroel’s (Yaakov) eyes were heavy with age, he could not see (Bereishis 48:10). On the other hand Bilaam boasted that his vision was with open eyes (Bamidbar 24:16).
It is customary to cover the eyes when reciting shemah. The simple reason given is so that we remove any distraction from our sight in order facilitate proper concentration. Homiletically we may suggest that we cover our eyes to indicate that when we recite the shemah and look forward to the coming of the end of the days, we embrace the spiritual perspective of Yaakov who was blind and not the mundane perspective of Bilaam who saw it with open eyes.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002