Torah Fax
Friday, January 5, 2007 - 15 Tevet, 5767

Torah Reading  VaYechi (Genesis 47:28 - 50:26)
Candle Lighting Time 4:24 PM
Shabbat ends 5:29 PM

Fish On Dry Land 

Before Jacob's passing, this week's parshah relates, he summoned his son Joseph and Joseph's two sons, Menasheh and Ephraim, to bless them. The blessing Jacob gave his two grandchildren has been preserved in our tradition as part of the blessings many fathers give their children on Friday afternoon. This poignant blessingreads: "May the angel who has delivered me from all evil bless the lads, and may my name and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac be called upon them, and may they increase abundantly like fish in the midst of the earth."

Commentators focus their attention on the concluding words: "And may they increase abundantly like fish in the midst of the earth."  They ask: While we can understand the comparison of one's children to fish - they should proliferate just like fish-what do the words "in the midst of the earth" add? Even if these words were deleted, would we not have known that Jacob was wishing his descendants that they multiply on dry land? Would it have occurred to anyone that he wanted them to dwell in water?

Water is a symbol for those aspects of life that are concealed. While the seas teem with living creatures, they are hidden from our view. Land, by contrast, represents things that are open for all to see. All of life exists on two planes. There are aspects of our lives that are obvious and there are those that are concealed. When one does something kind for another, this is a revealed aspect of goodness that generate positive energy, regardless of one's true feelings. The person might have been kind to his neighbor sincerely, or he might have had any number of sinister reasons for the favor, but the act, on the surface of it, was constructive. If someone gave charity to a starving person - though he might have done it for egotistical reasons - that starving person will survive, the donor's ego trip notwithstanding.

The deeds people do and the words they utter can all be said to inhabit the "earth," or "dry land." In the terminology of Kabbalah this overt dimension is known as "alma d'itgalya-The Revealed World."

There is, however, a separate world that exists simultaneously with the revealed and obvious dimension of existence. It is known in Kabbalah as "alma d'itkasya-the "hidden world." This hidden world is often represented by the metaphor of fish that exist in the waters that conceal their existence. When dealing with a person's secret thoughts, one's hidden personality or the underlying causes or dynamics of an experience, we are dealing with a world that is usually hidden from our view.

True, some of our thoughts and motives that direct the things we do - or don't do - are not very hidden at all. If we are honest with ourselves, we can understand what drives us to do certain acts or say certain things. Frequently, others can determine a person's thoughts and aspirations as well, by virtue of the way they behave. There is, however, a deeper world that is even concealed from our own conscious minds. There are hidden realms of our personality that we may never even discover. And while Freud spoke of how the subconscious affects our conscious minds, there are hidden parts of our psyche and soul that will forever defy exposure. There are powers in our soul that may never be revealed, or have a positive effect on our behavior.

The greatest blessing we can give someone is that they realize the full potential of their revealed talents and virtues as well as their hidden ones. Thus, when Jacob blessed his grandchildren, when he was bestowing upon them the energy to realize their potential, he was not content to wish them success in their positive endeavors. Jacob wanted his progeny to access even the hidden dimension of their personalities that are utterly elusive.

Jacob therefore blessed them to be like the fish that are hidden in the seas. Jacob wanted his descendants' hidden energy to be active, and to have an effect on their conscious and revealed faculties. However, Jacob was not content with simply blessing them with this concealed energy. True, frequently, one can draw inspiration from one's "unconscious" dimension of spirituality, but this amounts to no more than a limited, fleeting and superficial inspiration. Jacob wanted their hidden energy to "proliferate" and be fully revealed "in the midst of the earth." This means that Jacob blessed them with the ability to unleash the concealed energy in full force and allow it to manifest itself overtly.

Jacob's blessing, however, will not be fully realized until the Messianic Age. The obstructive and obscuring conditions of exile do not allow us to be truly "in touch" with our real personalities. As we prepare for the imminent arrival of Moshiach, we frequently discover hidden aspects of our psyche. This is a result of our close proximity to the Era of Redemption when our hidden nature will also be redeemed and revealed. As is true with respect to all other matters of Redemption, our Sages inform us that we are given a "taste" of what is to come in anticipation for the Ultimate Redemption. In this spirit, there are times when we discover new layers of our own personalities that enable us to live our lives-as we await Moshiach's  arrival-tapping even the hidden resources we possess.

Moshiach Matters

May we merit to the fulfillment of the verse in our Parshah, “...G‑d will remember you and will take you
out of this land to the Land which He promised you..” And may we merit to see (as the name of our Parshah indicates) “VaYechi Ya’akov, And Jacob Lives” that Jacob - and all righteous people - will be resurrected and then G‑d will redeem His children. (The Rebbe, Parshas Vayechi, 1991)

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001- 2006 Chabad of the West Side