motzei Shabbos: parashas Vayishlach 5782 – Chevlei Moshiach (Birthpangs of Messiah)

“She called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.”

 – Genesis 35:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

On the way from Beth-el to Eprath, Rachel went into labor with great hardship. The midwife assured her, that she would indeed have a son. As Rachel’s soul was expiring, she named her son, Ben-oni, meaning, “son of my sorrow.” However, Jacob named him Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand.” The intent of Jacob, in emphasizing the positive side of the birth, was to reaffirm the sanctity of life. May our eyes be opened to this truth. Despite the tragic circumstances of the birth of Benjamin, the positive was emphasized, without diminishing the loss.

Even so, Jacob was distressed by the passing of Rachel, who died while giving birth to Benjamin. The prophet Jeremiah, speaking about the Keitz (the End of Days) alludes to Jacob’s distress, whereas he says, “And it is a time of trouble unto Jacob, but out of it shall he be saved” (Jeremiah 30:4-7). The sages explain that this prophecy refers to the chevlei Mashiach (birthpangs of Messiah). As mentioned in the Talmud, the time that precedes the reign of the Messiah from Jerusalem will be a period of diminished light, immorality, and lack of social cohesion (as mentioned in Sanhedrin 97a).

Yet, K’lal Yisrael, when standing within the light of H’Shem will prevail. “Therefore fear thou not, O Jacob My servant, saith the L-RD; neither be dismayed, O Israel; for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall again be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the L-RD, to save thee” (Jeremiah 30:10-11, JPS).

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