Parshat Vayetze

Torah Reading for Week of November 30-December 6, 2008

“A stone, is a stone, is a stone”

By Hazzan Eva Robbins, ’04
AJRCA Director of Admissions

This enlightening Parsha, in which Jacob takes leave from his parents’ house and the place of his birth, reminds us of Lech L’cha, where G-d instructs Abraham to leave his family and go, “L’Cha,” towards himself, to his deep, inner being, in order to grow and become our forefather. Jacob must also take leave, in order that he shed the identity that shrouds him – the conniving, thief who steals what he wants and alienates his brother in the process. He is sent to his uncle, Lavan, where he can find safety and an appropriate wife. But first Jacob encounters ‘the place,’ “HaMakom,” as it is turning dark and lays down there to sleep. These opening paragraphs are full of images and language with deep meaning.

Firstly, Jacob takes a number of stones, “M’avney HaMakom” and arranges them around his head and upon awakening they become one stone, “Et-HaEven.” How has the many become one? What transpires, while he sleeps, that creates this transformation? First, a word about sleep and dreams. The Rabbis teach that when we sleep our physical being and soul separate. The body rests, while the soul enters into divine presence where it has an opportunity to make T’shuvah, repentance, for the day’s transgressions, becoming cleansed and purified and then returns, the next morning, unified and whole, as expressed in the prayer, Modeh Ani. Jacob’s sleep becomes an opportunity for his T’shuvah, for his cleansing of the many inappropriate behaviors, represented by the individual stones, that must be transformed. The image, in his dream, of angels ascending and then descending, represent each stone, shattering, as that part of his soul rises for Divine repair and then returns down, ready to reunify into one pure being, represented by the one stone, a Shalom, a wholeness. The dream becomes the means by which the many become one!

Secondly, the words HaMakom, the place, are symbolic, since Makom is another name for G-d. The “M’avney HaMakom,” these stones, are found on Divine ground and become the gateway for Jacob to enter into relationship with HaShem so that he can be healed and ready to receive his B’shert, Rachel. The text states, “Behold, G-d, was standing over Jacob and spoke to him saying that He is the G-d of Abraham, your father and the G-d of Isaac.” Why is Abraham described as Jacob’s father and not Isaac? Again this emphasizes that Jacob is more like Abraham, who must leave his past and go inside himself in order to emerge renewed to become the man of his destiny. Jacob recognizes this spiritual transformation and G-d’s presence, in this place, and names it Beit El, House of G-d. There he erects the ‘one’ stone as a pillar and anoints it with oil. He is now ready to continue his journey.

May each of us turn our ‘many’ little stones, i.e., mistakes and indiscretions, into a renewed whole, ‘one’ stone and erect it in our heart, dedicated to the Holy One.

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