"And Jacob called for his sons, and said, ‘Gather yourselves together and I will tell you what will happen to you in the End of Days.’" (Gen. 49:1)

The Midrash teaches that Jacob wished to reveal to his sons the time of the redemption [in Hebrew, "ketz"] but the Divine Presence [Shechinah] departed from him. (Bereishit Rabba 98b; Pesachim 56a) Jacob said to them, "My sons, perhaps [the departure of the Divine Presence] is due to a blemish/flaw/fault/defect among you." They then responded, saying, "Hear, oh Israel [i.e. their father Jacob], G‑d our Lord G‑d is One."

Jacob…wished to make known to them...the specific year of its conclusion….

The Patriarchs and Matriarchs were all prophets. Jacob was aware of the fact that his progeny were about to enter the initial stages of the Egyptian exile and wished to make known to them not only the general limited nature of the exile, but the specific year of its conclusion. At that precise moment, says the Midrash, the Divine Presence abandoned him, leaving him devoid of the ability to perceive - and thus communicate - the time of redemption.

The simple meaning of his sons’ response is that they were attempting to convey to their father that just as he had complete faith in One G‑d, so did they; they were all righteous, and his lack of prophecy was not due to some fault of theirs. In the following teaching from Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropole (HY"D), the great 17th century Kabbalist, the inner mystical meaning of this statement from our Sages is explored.

This Midrash is difficult to comprehend and must be understood in light of what the Sages teach regarding the length of the Egyptian exile, namely that it was "R’doo" [= 210] years long.

The classic commentaries refer to the 210 years of the Egyptian exile as "R’doo" - spelled reish dalet vav, the numerical value of 210 - which literally means "descend", as in the verse, "…descend there and purchase for us there, that we may live and not die" (Gen. 42:2), in Jacob’s initial instruction to his sons to go down to Egypt during famine.

They explain that the length of the exile was due to the blemish on G‑d’s name, specifically the Divine name Eh-yeh, caused by Joseph’s [nine] brothers when they sold him into slavery (see Gen. 37:18-29) in collaboration with the Divine Presence. The divine name Eh-yeh has a numerical value of 21, and 21 times 10 [referring to the nine brothers plus the Divine Presence, which "joined them" in their conspiracy] equals 210.

Moses figured that the blemish that Joseph’s brothers caused was in the divine name Havayah….

Of his eleven brothers, nine directly conspired against Joseph with intent to kill him; Reuben was serving his father at the time, and Benjamin was too young to be present. Briefly, the Sages explain that the brothers had legitimate claims against Joseph and that they wished to denounce him before a quorum of ten, according to Jewish law. Miraculously, the Divine Presence joined them to make the quorum, strengthening their allegations.

The above helps explain the unique use of the word "turned" [in Hebrew "sar"] in the verse "And G‑d saw that he [Moses] turned to see [the burning bush]…" (Ex.3:4) That Moses figured that the blemish that Joseph’s brothers caused [thus triggering the exile] was in the divine name Havayah, which has the numerical value of 26, and 26 times 10 [i.e. the nine brothers plus the collusion of the Divine Presence] equals 260. Thus, the time for redemption had not yet arrived.

The Arizal explains that Moses’ reluctance to accept the Divine mission to redeem the Jewish nation at the time of the Burning Bush was due to his assumption that the exile was decreed to last 260 years, due to its root in the divine name Havayah (= 26), rather than in the name Eh-yeh (= 21). (See Sha’ar HaPasukim, Miketz; Likutei Torah, Shemot)

But our father Jacob, of blessed memory, knew that it was the name Eh-yeh (which equals 21) that they had corrupted. It’s just that he wasn’t aware that the Divine Presence had collaborated with them. Therefore [according to his calculations] because the tribes [i.e. the brothers] which were present at the sale of Joseph were only nine, the length of the exile should have been only 189 years, i.e. 21 [the numerical value of the divine name Eh-yeh] times 9 [brothers] – and that their redemption would arrive at year number "ketz", = 190.

"Ketz", which literally means "end", is spelled kuf (= 100), tzadi (= 90).

Jacob…was unaware that they had included the Divine Presence in their plot….

And that is the intention of the abovementioned Midrash when it states that "Jacob wished to reveal to his sons the time of the redemption [in Hebrew, ‘ketz’]": that in the year "ketz"/190 would be the time of their redemption.

The Midrash also gives the reason for Jacob’s [inaccurate] conclusion that in the year "ketz"/190 the redemption would come: that "the Divine Presence departed from him", meaning that he was unaware that they had included the Divine Presence [in their plot].

But when he realized through prophetic vision that the redemption would not come about in the 190th year, Jacob became fearful, saying "perhaps it is due to a defect among you", meaning that maybe they had transgressed in another way, besides selling Joseph.

And that is the reason for their response: "Hear, oh Israel, G‑d our Lord G‑d is One": that G‑d our Lord was one among their quorum. The Divine Presence joined them in the sale of Joseph, and therefore they were ten. Thus, the duration of the exile will not be complete until well after the year "ketz"/190 [i.e. 9 times 21, plus one] rather after "r’doo"/210 [10 times 21]

And so it was, that the duration of the Egyptian exile lasted 210 years, until the Exodus. May we merit to understand the profound inner meanings of the conversations of the righteous.

[Translated by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein.]