Monday, December 1, 2008

My Father Yaakov

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Haran...

Have you ever heard the expression "life happens while we are making plans for something else"? My sense is that our father Yaakov would have understood that expression perfectly.

At the outset of the Parsha of Vayetzay we are told of Yaakov's journey. He is on the way from Beer Sheva to Haran to fulfill the charge of his parents to go and get for himself a wife. It was getting dark and he needed to rest. The Torah tells us he stopped over at hamakom, the place, for the night. Several times the Torah refers to the setting where Yaakov rested as hamakom, the place, as if it has no name. But why? At the end of the section we are told that Yaakov named hamakom, the place, Bet El. But is had a name prior. It was called Luz. So why is hamakom not referred to by its name, Luz, at the portions outset?

I suspect the place was not named at the beginning because to Yaakov its name was irrelevant. Yaakov was on a mission. He was focused on his goal. He merely was in Luz because he was tired and it was too dark to travel. The setting might as well have been anywhere he lay his head. It was only a way-station to places far more important for the journeys successful completion.

How surprised was Yaakov to have an amazing dream at this non-descript place, a dream of ascending and descending angels, a dream in which he receives the promise of the Divine. No wonder when Yaakov wakes in the middle of the night he does not build an altar and deal with the content of his dream, marvelous as it was. For that he waits until morning. No, he awakes and is shaken. He wonders how could he have missed an awareness of the holiness of this site. How could he have thought he was in hamakom when in fact he was at the Bet Elokim.

Indeed Yaakov was so busy focused on the destination that he almost missed the gift and opportunity of the journey itself with all its moments to experience Hashem.

A great baal musar once wrote that every person's daled amot, four cubits, is their kodesh hakadashim, holy of holies. And if a person accesses the moment and the place who knows whats possible for him/her in the arena of kedusha. What's vital is to never see where we are as simply a means to an end. The place where we are, no matter how far from our destination, may be the bet elokim for us if we will be but open to the moment. Life does happen while we are busy making plans...What a shame it would be if we were too preoccupied to notice!

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