Monday, November 17, 2014


Genesis 25:19−28:9

Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Connecting with the Divine

This week's parashat is Va'yetze includes the well-known story of Jacob's dream. After fleeing from his brother Esau, Jacob finds a place to rest and while sleeping he has a dream. In this dream he sees a ladder reaching from earth to heaven. On this ladder angels are ascending and descending; God is "standing" on the ladder. God promises Jacob that he will indeed become a great nation and that his descendants will be blessed. Upon awakening Jacob proclaims that had he realized the awesomeness of the place he would not have gone to sleep for "God was in this place and I did not know it." He then names the place Bet El, the house of God.

I would imagine that if any of us were to have a similar experience we too would proclaim the awesomeness of the place. We might also have wished we had not gone to sleep. Rabbis and Sages throughout the centuries have commented on this story and on Jacob's reaction to his dream. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner wrote a book a number of years ago entitled "God Was in This Place and I, I Did Not Know" (Jewish Lights Publishing). This book focuses on the many interpretations of this single verse. The repetition of the word "I" that Kushner uses in the title is intentional. In the Hebrew if Jacob had simply said 'lo yadati' it would mean, "I didn't know. "The additional use of the word 'anochi' (I) before 'lo yadati' can therefore seem superfluous and be translated as "I, I did not know." However, tradition teaches that no word in the Torah is superfluous and so the Sages try to deduce the meaning of the additional "I."

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