We can put up with quite a lot when we know there’s an end to it.

Move with your entire family into one small room for a week, and you call it “vacation.” But if your one-week stay were to drag on endlessly, even the nicest hotel room would no longer feel like an exciting interlude.

Those who suffer from chronic pain will tell you that it’s not any single moment of pain that’s unbearable. It’s the protracted nature of it that gradually wears down their defenses. They may be able to cope with the pain one day, only to wake up and have to do it all over again the next.

And so it is for the ongoing stresses of life. What sustains us is the expectation that the situation can turn around with the right amount of effort and optimism. When we see no way out, no possible solution, despair soon sets in.

In We can put up with a lot when we know it’s temporarythis week’s Torah portion, Jacob blesses his children before his passing. He says to them, “Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen at the end of days.”1 On this verse our sages say, “He wished to reveal the end date [of the exile], but G‑d’s Presence departed from him.”2

When G‑d’s presence departed, Jacob realized that it was not desirable for him to reveal the end date of the exile to his children. Another interpretation is that without the Divine Presence, Jacob lost the ability to convey the end date.

What a tremendous boost it would have been to know the end date of exile! How much encouragement it would have given them to keep fighting, to keep struggling, knowing that the battle is almost over and they are assured of victory. Why would G‑d deny them this little bit of comfort and security?

The answer is that part of the experience of exile is not knowing. Despite never being truly secure, never knowing when the rug will be swept from under our feet, we keep on going. To press on in the face of all obstacles—when we see nothing but fog in front of our eyes—demands the deepest reserves of strength and faith. And it is precisely these reserves that G‑d wants to elicit from us during our experience in exile.

According to chassidic teachings, Jacob wanted to do more than just reveal the end date. He wanted to engineer the end date. The secret he wished to reveal was that the exodus from Egypt would in fact be the final redemption. The date of the final redemption is not set in stone; it depends a great deal on our spiritual status at the time. If the Jewish people had merited it, the exodus from Egypt would indeed have been the final redemption. But they did not know that. Jacob hoped that by revealing this to his sons, it would spur them and their descendants to maintain their spiritual standing, so that they would never have to go through another exile again.

The little “boost” that Jacob wanted to give his children would have significantly lightened the burden of exile, but it would also have denied us an important component of our achievement in exile—the fact that we attain it through our own efforts. There are no shortcuts, no handouts from above.

Jacob wanted to reveal the end date to his children because he felt it was a worthwhile sacrifice to give up a bit of the perfection of their achievement for the sake of a shorter, more bearable exile. The sages use the word bikesh, he “desired.” This word can also be interpreted as bakashah—he “beseeched” G‑d to allow him to do this, to alleviate the burden of exile.

Nevertheless, G‑d removed His Presence from Jacob. Completing the work of exile on our own, without a boost from above, is not just an “extra credit” but is essential to the process of redemption. If our work is aided from above, then as soon as the boost is removed, we drop back to where we were before. When we’ve completed the work with our own effort, it’s ours and can never be taken away.

If it is so important to complete the work of exile without any assistance from above, then what was Jacob thinking when he wanted to reveal the end date? Jacob wanted to reveal the end date to his childrenChassidic teachings explain that Jacob had already achieved this level in his own right. He was nearing the end of his life, and had done his part to perfection. He had been through many challenges, from his dispute with his brother Esau and his father-in-law Laban to losing his beloved wife Rachel and his precious son Joseph. Through it all, he survived with his faith in G‑d intact. In the end he merited to be reunited with Joseph, and spent the last 17 years of his life in tranquility, reaping nachat from his children and descendants. He hoped that it would be enough, and that his suffering would spare his children any further hardships. But G‑d wanted all of Jacob’s children to reach the same level—something we could not do if Jacob would reveal the end date.

Still, Jacob’s request was not in vain. The fact that he knew the end date and wanted to reveal this information, that he desired to alleviate the pain of exile, remains with us as a source of strength. It gives us the capacity to hold on just a little bit longer, to press on despite the pain until we merit the complete redemption.

When the pain is so strong that we cannot bear another moment, that’s when we turn to G‑d and beg Him for Moshiach. And that, in itself, is what gives us the strength to overcome the challenge and get through the final moments of exile. This is true especially in our generation, when we have completed all the necessary preparations. At this point, it is inexplicable why there is any delay at all. All that’s left for us is to turn to G‑d and say, “We are ready. Now.”

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likkutei Sichot, vol. 20, pp. 228–234.)