What Place Is This Place

In the learning of Torah, we often find that the core values and lessons that can add so much meaning to our lives are presented in a very subtle manner. Sometimes the teachings can be so subtle that we do not even see them.

One of these instances is found when Jacob leaves his family to go live with his Uncle Laban. After cheating Esau out of his birthright, Jacob flees, fearing Esau might make good on the threat to kill him. He leaves Beersheva, and travels toward Haran. The sun is setting, so Jacob stops in ‘the place’ and settles in for the night. He takes stones from ‘the place’ and puts them under his head and lays down in ‘the place’ (Genesis 28:10-11).

It is there that Jacob has the dream of the ladder with angels/messengers going up and down the ladder. When Jacob wakes up, he says that God had to be in ‘the place’ and he is afraid because of how awesome ‘the place’ is (Genesis 28:16-17). He eventually names ‘the place’ Beth El – where God resides.

We can read this story, and get drawn into the vision that Jacob had, the ladder, the angels going up and down, not down and up, the restatement of the promise made to Abraham and Isaac. But in doing so, we miss the importance of ‘the place’. ‘The place’ has no name because it can be anywhere and everywhere. The Divine resides wherever we allow, wherever we dedicate ourselves to making the world that is into the world we want it to be.

God resides with us. All we need to do is look around.

Rabbi Stanley Halpern