Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
There is one verse in this week’s Torah portion that is extremely important; it’s about finding God in unexpected places. Yaakov Avinu leaves the Land of Israel. Until now, he was wholesome and innocent, a tent dweller and a student, and now he leaves his homeland in flight from his brother Esau. He is also in search of a wife but will have to endure 14 long years of hard labor for his uncle Lavan, even as he contends with increasingly difficult challenges.
When just starting out on his journey, Yaakov dreams the famous dream about “a ladder set up on the ground with its top reaching to heaven,” after which he proclaims: “Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” This is the notable verse that we read, just as Yaakov transitions from a spiritual to a more materialistic life. He reveals the secret that God is here, too, in the mundane world.
Many commentators explain that Yaakov teaches us “to seize the day,” to find excitement, holiness, and mitzvah opportunities in everyday life. Life is truly a ladder set up on the ground, but its top reaches heaven. We do not find God only where we plan to meet Him, but in unexpected places too.
Many synagogues and study halls, places of prayer and learning, have been closed for months. It is thus especially worthwhile now to recall that holiness is also hiding between the kitchen and the living room, and in other unpredictable settings, where we can also proclaim: “Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”