This month, the MLJC will gather for a community-wide service during which we will hear our friends chant the words in parshat Vayetze. This Torah portion recounts the piece of Jacob’s story during which he left Beer-sheva for Haran to escape the wrath of his twin brother, Esau, who had vowed to kill him. We know, now, that this slaying didn’t happen, so we can take a breath and get back to the story.
The scene opens with Jacob wandering until he rests for the night and has what has become a most noteworthy dream. The description of this dream has been deemed to be among the most beautiful images in all of literature. Jacob dreams of a ladder set upon the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven. Angels ascend and descend upon the ladder, the top of which is hidden among the clouds.
Nothing in the Torah is there accidentally and the order of the words, ascending and then descending, is no exception. The angels started out alongside Jacob and climbed the ladder before they were able to descend and then climb again. Torah Commentary tells us that it appears they were accompanying Jacob all along, although he had no idea of their presence. The earth is filled with angels, but how many of us see them?
So often, we question why there are no miracles, why G-d no longer speaks to us and ask, “Where is G-d, anyway?” Our protagonist, Jacob, finds that the earth is filled with G-d and that He doesn’t sit far away, upon an unreachable throne, but, rather, that G-d is “in this place.” Jacob looks around and realizes that “this is none other than the house of G-d” and Torah Commentators write that, “Every spot on the earth may be for man ‘the gate of heaven.’”
We don’t have to be in the pews to see G-d, hear G-d or feel G-d’s presence. And we don’t have to reside in the heavens. If we look around at the faces of friends and loved ones, we might see that spark we call G-d. If we look around at the trees—even as they lose their leaves—and at the sky and the oceans, we might glimpse the One Who created them. If we quiet down enough, put our phones away and turn off the TV, we might hear G-d’s still, small voice in the wind, the calls of birds and within our own souls.
Jacob had a dream which woke him to G-d’s presence; some of us might need a dream, too. Others of us might need to witness a loved one’s recovery from illness, the birth of a baby, a close call on the road. And, others of us might just need to hear the voice of a friend chanting words that have spoken to us for centuries.