Vayetze

Jacob wakes up from a dream-encounter with God, and is shaken. “God is truly in this place, and I did not know!” A relationship with a transcendent God tends to sanctify actions, words, intentions and times rather than places; later Judaism expresses such a relationship in “places” such as prayer, Shabbat and commandments. Medieval commentator Ibn Ezra responds to this verse “I dare not explain it, though it contains a wonderful secret.” Maybe the secret is this: places can also be holy, but not intrinsically so: relationship sanctifies place. (All lovers know this.) Jacob’s astonishment is not that he discovered a new holy place, but that the encounter has created a sense of holiness that he had never before noticed.

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[Inspired by: Jacob’s Ladder by William Blake; Genesis 28; Abraham Ibn Ezra on 28:16; and Musical Variations on Jewish Thought by Olivier Revault d’Allonnes.]

 

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2 comments on “Vayetze

    • This specific story echoes in the political discourse in modern Israel. The “place” in the story is reinterpreted to take place in Jerusalem (even though the text specifically says it was in Beit El). Some think that place creates the spiritual relationship they are looking for, I (obviously) see it differently.

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