I love it when the seemingly novel and insightful trends of the moment actually find antecedent in the timely wisdom of our tradition. The notions of “mindfulness” and “being present in the moment” fill the self-help sections of Amazon and are fodder for self-actualization weekends. Yet in this week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, we learn a potent lesson from our patriarch Jacob that spans at least three millennia. On the run from his cheated and furious brother Esau, Jacob stops for the night with little but a rock as his pillow. His past is closed off to him, and his future is highly uncertain. He is distracted by his predicament and invested only in his challenges. In a dream, he beholds a ladder spanning earth and the heavens, as divine beings traverse the interstices. When he awakens, he verbalizes his epiphany, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it!” Suddenly, his orientation shifts, his perspective broadens, and his priorities reorder. He now locates himself within a larger destiny and bigger vision. The challenges of the moment, while still present, are now proportionate to what matters most. Timely wisdom for all of us, indeed.
Rabbi Daniel Weiner