Vayetze brings us many of the themes that we now recognize as part of the Genesis narrative concerning the Patriarchal families: deception, rivalry, infertility and a range of family dynamics. The most famous part of the portion is the dream that Jacob has as he flees from Esau. This is the famous story of “Jacob’s Ladder” and the oft quoted line that he spoke upon awakening that God was in this place (makom) and he did not know it. As many commentators point out, the word for place, makom, becomes of one the mnay names used for God in our tradition, as in Ha’makom!
Of course, many of us have experienced the feeling at times in our lives, a feeling of being in the presence of something beyond our own self, a presence that elevates our souls and takes us to another level of reality. It is often a challenge to describe. The idea of place also can speak to us this week, as so many of us, thanks to Covid, will remain “in place” instead of being with friends and family for the holiday. For far too too many, this will only heighten a sense of isolation. With the constant bombardment of news between calls to stay in place and a vaccine that is just around the corner, it may be a challenge for many to hold on and to focus on the “here and now”.
As may be expected, there can be a message from tradition for us. It is a concept of savlanut which means, patience. I admit, for so many of us, after almost 9 months of revised living, having patience may be a real challenge. But what the tradition is telling us is that, again, life is so precious that we need to do everything we can to make sure we survive this moment in time…and it is just a moment. The tradition may also be speaking to us and asking us to take this time and this place in time to stop focusing so much on other-world issues and, instead, look inside our own souls. Perhaps, as you think about Thanksgiving we all can try and focus on what we are thankful for, even in the midst of a pandemic. Maybe we can find that renewed sense of self and purpose and the sacred within our own souls, in that “place” where our true self resides and allowing that sacred reality to emerge. Think about what that could mean. Maybe we can take some time this week to take a long view of where we are in life and to recognize that the “place” where our souls are can be a place where God resides and that, if we but have the patience to just “be” we can emerge from this pandemic changed and renewed.
Shabbat shalom. Stay safe and healthy
Rabbi Richard F Address