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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat VaYetze – Dream a little dream of ….

Posted by rabbiart on November 26, 2009

On the second day of creation HaShem creates a rakyia (usually translated ‘firmament’) that separates the upper waters from the lower waters.  The rakiya is called shamayim (‘sky’ in the physical sense, ‘heaven’ in the religious sense).  This is the only act of creation and naming that takes place on the second day.  This day is the only day which HaShem does not see as “good.”

If HaShem can be said to reside anywhere, it is above the shamayim in a place where humans cannot reach.

After starting his own lech-licha journey, Yakov stops in “a place”.  The Hebrew is  וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם (usually translated as “he lighted” or “he stayed” in a place.  The word paga can also mean wounded, injured, or afflicted, and surely Yakov is all of those, even if his wounds are self-inflicted.

About this place Rashi comments that it is Mount Moriah, where Yakov’s grandfather had almost sacrificed/killed Yakov’s father.   It is at Mount Moriah that we see one of the last creatures made during the first week of creation; the ram which is created in the moment between the end of the sixth day and the beginning of the first Shabbat.

Rashi  – quoting from Midrash and Talmud – also points out that the wording of our verse is  unusual.  He says that the verse should have said that the sun set, so Yakov stayed in that place.  Whether simply a pretext for the comment or not, the point is that it is not accidental that Yakov spends the night in this particular place.  It is as if only in this place do heaven and earth meet; where perhaps the rakiya does not completely separate the domain of HaShem from the earthly domain of humankind.

Yakov dreams – as we know – of a very unusual ladder on which messenger/angels ascend and descend. The ladder reaches toward the heavens. After Yakov’s dream of a visitation from HaShem, he awakes and proclaims (in translation) “Surely HaShem is in this place, and I did not know this.”  Yakov recognizes the place as a gateway to the heavens.

Three verses later Yakov has reverted to his deal-making negotiating self.  If HaShem will be with him, and guard him, and feed him, and if he returns peacefully to his ancentral home, then he will accept HaShem as his god and then he will act as a believer.

It is painfully easy and tempting to slam Yakov for his deceitful behavior and his conditional (at best) acceptance of HaShem’s promise and presence in his life.  But if we reflect on our own lives, we are likely to see ourselves in Yakov.  It is the rare person who does set conditions and make deals.  It is even more rare (but how fortunate) to have a constant and steadfast belief in and sense of HaShem’s presence in our lives.

For most of us (or should I just say – for me!) a clear  sense of G-d’s presences is infrequent and transitory.  There are moments when we an see, like Yakov, “surely G-d is in this place”, but there are many more moments when we are in a state of  “I knew it not.”

On the pshat level this story is simply about a wounded man fleeing his misdeeds who has a powerful dream and a moment of enlightenment.  But at a deeper level, Yakov’s story is one that we all share, and it delivers a reassuring message.   Verse 16 comes to tell us, that whether we know it not – HaShem is in “this place.”  And the place where we are, wherever it is, can be the gateway to heaven.

Why is the usual proclamation of creation – HaShem saw that it was good – missing from the second day?  Because the second day marks the =separation of G-d and humankind.  In HaShem’s regarding of the design, this separation is necessary – but it is not good.

Yakov’s dream reflects Hashem’s desire for humankind; that we dream of a ladder to climb, that unites and cements our partnership with HaShem in creating and finishing our world.

Shabbat Shalom

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One Response to “Parshat VaYetze – Dream a little dream of ….”

  1. Shirley Gould said

    I live with a sense that God is with me at all times; “in the place” connotes that He is stationery, which to me means that I must go there. It feels as though there is a difference between a God who is everpresent and one who stays put.

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