The Lord Is in This PlaceNovember 6, 2013 - 5:00 am
“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’”—Genesis 28:16
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeitzei, which means “and he left,” is from Genesis 28:10–32:3, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 11:7–12:14.
Where is God? Is He in Heaven? Is He in the churches and synagogues? Is He in our homes? A famous Sage once asked his students this very question and suggested that God is everywhere you let Him in.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Jacob’s journey to Harran. On the way, Jacob spent the night in what, unbeknownst to him, was the future site of the Holy Temple that one day would serve as God’s home. Jacob fell asleep and had his famous dream about a ladder rooted on earth and reaching all the way toward heaven. He saw angels going up and down on this stairway that appeared to connect heaven and earth. When Jacob woke up in the morning, he was in awe and exclaimed, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”
On the surface, this story is about Jacob’s discovery that the land on which he slept was a holy spot. According to Jewish tradition, the Sages teach that it was in this very place, Mount Moriah, that God began the Creation of the world. It was also there that Abraham brought Isaac as a sacrifice and there that the Temple would one day be built. This particular location was special and unique, holy.
However, on a deeper level, the Sages teach that Jacob experienced another kind of revelation. When he saw the angels coming and going between heaven and earth, he saw that heaven and earth are very much connected. Jacob understood that the Lord was in that place – and every place that we would be willing to receive His presence.
We often go through life thinking that God is in one place but not another. We feel that some things we do are holy, while others are totally mundane. However, what Jacob learned on that fateful night is that “the LORD is in this place” and also in places that “I was not aware of it.” Even places and things that seem totally devoid of spirituality and meaning have the potential to become an experience of worship and an encounter with God.
It all depends on us. We can wash dishes and feel separate from God’s presence, or we can wash those same dishes and feel that we are serving God by creating a clean and healthy environment in which to thrive and grow. We can go to work feeling empty and disconnected, or we can see every encounter as a chance to model honesty, integrity, kindness, and godliness.
God is everywhere – even in the places we would least expect Him to be – so long as we open the door and let Him in.