(Mini Drash given at Friday evening service)
In this parshah, Yaakov leaves his parents house, and on his first night, he has this amazing dream, angels going up, angels going down, God standing beside him, giving him and his offspring the land and God’s blessing, promising to be with him and to bring him back into the land. Wow! Pretty amazing. Yaakov wakes up and is shaken. He is shaken and full of awe and he says the Lord is in this place and I did not know. One of my favorite lines. It always makes me think about being aware of the possibilities of infinite space, infinite Makom being in the small every day moments—you think you’re just lying down on a regular old stone, a regular piece of dirt—but actually there are angels flying up and down, an opening into heaven, endless possibilities, blessing, futures unfolding before your present self—if only you can open yourself to them.
Then the classic anointing the stone with oil and vowing that if God is with him, and will keep him and give him bread, clothes, and bring him back in peace, Yaakov will make the stone God’s house and will give a tithe, a tenth of all he owns, back to God. This is not a small thing. I don’t know about you but when I try to give away a tenth of my income, it’s hard. And then it says, “Vayisa Yaakov raglav vayelech artza bnei kedem.”
This is an unusual phrase and it has been translated differently by different people. Hertz translates it, “Then Yaakov went on his journey.” In Nehama Leibowitz, she describes it, “Yaakov lifted up his feet, “ and says there are different opinions about what this means. Speaking of one opinion, she quotes the Midrash Aggada, “Usually a man’s feet carry him along. Why then did Yaakov carry his feet? To imply that he became lightfooted from his joy at the Holy One blessed be He’s message.” She quotes Rashi as saying that “the story teaches us that they that hope in the Lord are fortified.” I would look at it from another angle and say that his connection with God and receiving God’s blessing shook him up, made him feel in a different, and when he was able to see God’s blessing coming his way and respond by pouring out his own blessing to God and committing himself to sharing his bounty, in giving his tithe, in giving back out of gratitude, that that is when he felt himself lightfooted, sped along his journey, capable of amazing feats, that when he committed himself to giving back, that rolled the enormous stone off of his own well of strength, his own inner core of resilience and grounded connection to God and his future. May we all give back. Shabbat shalom.