At the beginning of Vayeitzei, Yaakov has this vision and hear directly from Hashem. One of things God tells him is that (28:15) “for I will not forsake you until I will have done what I have spoken about you.” I have always read this pasuk as comforting to Yaakov. Hashem is promising to be with him. However this year I read the pasuk and could was worried for Yaakov; for the pasuk implies that there is a possibility of Hashem forsaking Yaakov at some future point in history, once Hashem has done what He promised.
I think there are two ways to alleviate this concern. First, the Torah advises that we live in the present. On the pasuk in Parshat Shoftim “Tamim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains this to be a mandate to live in the moment. Be fully aware of what is happening now, and do not let future considerations temper the feeling in that moment.
I recently taught the Mishna at the beginning of the 9th chapter of Berachot in a similar fashion: the Mishna explains the blessings of HaTov V’Hameitiv (on good tidings) as well as Dayan Haemet (on bad news). The Mishna goes onto to explain the proper blessing for an event that is bad in the short term, but good in the long run; or vice- versa. For instance: what is the blessing on a catastrophic flood that decimates a field now (bad now), but will lead to that field becoming much more fertile and prosperous in the future (good later)? Or what is the blessing if a person finds a valuable object that he will be able to keep (good now), but the laws of that land mandate that a high tax be paid to the king on such finds, and this person does not have that much liquid assets and knows that finding this object will cause complications and problems (bad later)? In both cases the Mishna states that the proper blessing is based on the experience now: if it’s bad news in the present, say Dayan Ha’Emet. If it’s good news now, then say HaTov V’Hameitiv. Be fully present in the moment and be mindful to fully experience what is going on NOW, and later you can process/ put into perspective.
Perhaps this is how we should understand Hashem’s promise. It’s true that the future may bring periods during which it appears as if Hashem has forsaken Yaakov or his descendants. But Yaakov should respond to the present situation of the Divine promise of protection and respond purely with gratitutde.
Alternatively, perhaps we are supposed to understand Yaakov’s follow-up declaration as a response to this inferred possibility of a future moment of Divine forsakenness. Yaakov says, “If you God give me food to eat and clothes to wear….then I will tithe from all that I have” (28:22). Perhaps Yaakov is teaching us the secret to spiritual survival and maintaining a connection with Hashem during those times when it may appear as if He has forsaken us: 1) Say brachot- recognize that the food we have comes from Hashem and 2) Do Chesed- bring God into the world by being Godly and providing for others. If we seek Hashem out in all of our endeavors and strive to emulate His ways- then we stay close to Him and prevent Him from forsaking us.