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In Parashas Vayechi, Ya'akov calls for his sons to gather so that he can tell them about what shall befall them at the end of days. Gen. 49:1. He never gets to that, however, because, according to Rashi, the Divine Spirit left him at that moment. The Midrash, Breshis Rabbah 98:2 tells us that when he lost that prophecy, Yaakov assumed that he was prevented from disclosing what would occur because of a spiritual deficiency in one or more of his sons.

While the Midrash explains Yaakov's thinking at the time, it does not explain if that was the actual reason that the prophecy was obscured from Yaakov.

I heard another reason, but I'm not sure who brought it down or even if I heard it correctly. What I heard was that Yaakov was going to explain about how the Moshiach will come after the War on Gog v'Magog. However, Yaakov was not going to explain the other option -- that the Messianic Era could come about without the war if Klal Yisroel achieved holiness before the end of days. Because Yaakov made the assumption that his descendants were incapable of that level of holiness, Hashem withdrew the Shekinah to prevent Yaakov from committing loshon hara against the entire Jewish people yet to be born.

It sounds persuasive, but I have no idea of the source. Has anyone else heard this? Have you learned any other reason for Yaakov losing the ability to transmit the prophecy of the Messianic Era?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

This source attributes your explanation to the Divrei Shmuel in the name of the Rebbe of Chortkov.

I also heard approximately this interpretation in a recent shiur on Parshas Vayechi by R' Fischel Schachter, who said he thought it was from the Chasam Sofer. He begins discussing this at around 11:30 into the shiur.

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I one heard Rav Yitzchak Grossman from Migdal Ha'Emek (the "Disco Rabbi") gave a fascinating answer to this.

He said that when a Novi has a nevu'ah about the future, his whole spiritual essence connects to that time he is being misnabeh about. Being that the time of Moshiach's coming is at the height of Hester Panim in this Galus, it was impossible for him to finish the nevu'ah; at the very moment his spiritual essence connected to the right time, it also connected to Hester Panim of that time, and hence Ruach HaKodesh became impossible.

Kind of a catch 22!

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains as follows (Likkutey Sichos vol. 20 pg. 228):

When Yaakov's sons would hear that Moshiach was not scheduled to come for a long time, they would have realised that some considerable additional effort was needed to bring him sooner - as the Talmud states that through additional merit the Redemption comes earlier (Sanhedrin 98a). Thus, Yaakov hoped that by revealing that the end of days was a long way off, it would motivate his children to add substantially in Divine Service, so as to bring Moshiach sooner.

Nevertheless, despite his good intentions the Shechina departed from him, and Yaakov found himself unable to reveal the End of Days. For, ultimately, G-d wants us to bring Moshiach through our own efforts, and not through the assistance of "revelations" from above.

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I like this, but. It begs the question: then why did Hashem permit the prophets to reveal more? –  Bruce James Jan 1 '13 at 1:59
    
@BruceJames Not sure what you mean, can you clarify? –  Michoel Jan 1 '13 at 3:37
    
I have the same problem with the interpretation I cited: if G-d didn't think it was apprpriate for Yaakv to tell his sons that the Geulah is far into the future, why was it ok to have the Naviim give that news to the exiles? Perhaps they needed any hpe they could get. –  Bruce James Jan 1 '13 at 7:03
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