“And he [Jacob] lighted upon the place and tarried there all night, because the sun was set. And he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.” (Genesis 28:11)
The “place” is mentioned three times in this verse, which makes us reflect on its meaning in regards to Jacob’s view. Our Sages say that “God is the place of the world and the world is not God’s place”, and with that approach we may fathom the “place” Jacob found the night he had the dream of the ladder. Evidently, our third Patriarch was not aware of what that place was until he woke up from the dream where the Creator spoke to him.
“And behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go. And I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done that which I have spoken to you of.” (28:15)
The first sentence of this verse confirms what our Sages say, that God is the place of all existence for He keeps us wherever we are; even if we are not aware of this. In the case of Jacob, the Creator reaffirms the covenant He made with Isaac and Abraham, in regards to the Promised Land.
The last part of the verse is clearly related to the numerous events that would have occurred since that moment up to the “end of days”, God’s final redemption of His chosen people. These are stated in the previous verse.
“And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (28:14)
These events are still to be accomplished if we take them literally, as some of our Sages do in regards to the Messianic era. Yet, it is a fact that have occurred by the many contributions the Jewish people have done to humankind, starting with the ethical ruling principles Judaism imprints on goodness, as the cause and purpose of God’s creation. In this sense, goodness is the place He has established for humankind to dwell in, the blessing we are destined to share with all families of the earth.
“And Jacob awakened out of his sleep and he said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” (28:16)
Goodness is the connecting “place” we share with the Creator, and we have to wake up to this irrefutable truth in Judaism. The Prophet reminds us in the haftarah for this week’s Torah portion, that no matter how big or small are the idols we make out of ego’s fantasies and illusions, these are nothing before what goodness does in human life.
“Yet I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt and you knew no God but Me, and besides Me there is no redeemer.” (Hosea 13:4)