Shabbat Commentary

12/13 Nov: Vayeitzei : Shabbat comes in 4:01 pm, ends 5:04 pm

Parashat Vayeitzei – God Was in This Place
In Parashat Vayeitzei, we follow Jacob on his journey from his home (which he is forced to flee after dramatically deceiving his brother) to meet his extended family in Ḥaran. On the way, Jacob stops to sleep in an unnamed place (often understood by commentators to be Moriah, on which the Temple would one day be built) and dreams of a ladder to the Heavens. Upon waking, Jacob proclaims (Gen. 28:16): ‘Surely God was in this place, and I did not know.’

Jacob’s wonder at his inability to recognise God’s presence reminds me of one of my very favourite midrashim (creative rabbinic commentaries). Exodus Rabbah 24:1 recounts the story of the Israelites crossing the split sea from the perspective of two particular Israelite men called Shimon and Reuven.
While their brethren are singing and celebrating, and gazing in awe at the walls of the sea on either side of them, Reuven and Shimon are complaining about the mud. Egypt had mud, they say, and the sea has mud. What’s so special about that ? Reuven and Shimon are so busy staring at their shoes in the mud that they somehow manage to miss the miracle of the splitting of the sea entirely.

Much like Jacob, Reuven and Shimon are surrounded by a holy miracle, but are instead focused on looking downward. However, Jacob’s vision of the ladder draws his gaze upwards toward the heavens, to wonder and awe, and to a renewed relationship with the Holy Blessed One.  Reuven and Shimon do not appear to be as fortunate. Nobody stops to remind them to look upwards.

May we all remember to look upwards at the miracles around us.

Shabbat shalom, 

Rabbi Natasha

































November 9, 2021