Parashat Vayetze and Thanksgiving: The Power of Awareness

Behold, God is in this place and I, I did not know.

אכן יש ה’ במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי

Behold God is here, right now, and I am not aware of it.   God is in the moment of traffic in the car and God is in the meal I share with my husband and children and God is in the moment of nervousness before I begin a class and in the moments of learning I share with my students and in the moment of sadness as I watch my child cry. And God is here with me now as I write these words.  In each moment, in every moment God is present.

The question for us, as for our father Yaakov, is: Do we see Him, do we feel Him, do we remember to be awake to His presence?   Yaakov slept and then “awoke” to this realization.   We go through life alternately asleep and awake to the knowing of this truth.   It is one of those things we once knew  well– a déjà vu, perhaps a piece of the Torah we learned and forgot before we were born – it is something we know and forget, know and forget continuously.

When we know it, though, how powerful we are!   We feel how strongly our life blood pulses with the divine — we are capable of anything; we can open closed doors.  Yaakov declares after awakening that this here is the “gate to heaven.” Shaar Hashamayim. As the Psalmist says, Pithu li shaarei tzedek.  Open for me the gates of righteousness.  Yaakov has done so.  To feel God’s presence is to feel that this gate to heaven is open; it is to feel the flow.

In the next scene Yaakov manages to remove the heavy rock atop the well, a rock that normally takes a village to remove.   The angels of God that went up and down the ladder in his dream symbolize the energy of this divine life force, this awareness and connection to God.    Yaakov is capable of the impossible because he keeps himself constantly connected to this energy source.    No wonder he has 12 children while his ancestors struggle for 2!   Life flows through him.

Yes, when we know God is with us, our outlook is different. We are confident and capable because we are connected to the divine energy flow, connected and centered.      Someone who works in a prison once told me that when she prays each morning it is for her as if she has plugged herself into an electric outlet  — she is recharged and energized, fortified with faith and a sense of the divine for whatever lies ahead.  Yaakov begins his journey – which won’t be an easy one – with just such a charge.

Behold, God is in this place, and I, I did not know.   How often we do not know, do we not see.  May we remember to ask in every situation – where is God in this place?  Can I feel His presence?   Because surely God is in this place, too, here, right now, among us.

About the Author
Rachel Anisfeld holds a PhD in Jewish Studies and studies and teaches Torah in a variety of Atlanta adult education settings.
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