“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said:
Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”
There are lyrics from the song, “Older,” written by Michael Pollack and Nathan Andrew Cyphert, and sung by Ben Platt, that I think of often.
The song begins with a young man walking in New York City, and he looks at a gray-haired man in the eyes and the older gentleman’s eyes tell a story.
“When you are younger, you’ll wish you’re older; Then when you’re older, you’ll wish for time to turn around; Don’t let your wonder turn into closure, When you get older ... ”
These lyrics inspired my reflections about this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitze, as Jacob travels and comes to a turning point in his life. The use of the word “makom” reminds me of one of the most comforting statements in Judaism:
“May G-d comfort you with other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
HaMakom is a term for G-d, as we call out to the Holy One when we may want to say, “I understand your loss,” when there are no words. Life is often about searching and looking for something when we are feeling lost. The HaMakom may just be missing. Wrestling with oneself could be a search for G-d, who might just be right before our eyes.
As Jacob travels from Beer Sheba to Haran, he gets tired as the sun sets. Jacob finds a rock to rest his head. As he sleeps, he dreams of a ladder that brings the heavens and the earth together. Jacob wakes only to realize his destiny.
“And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.”
We human beings search our whole lives for “HaMakom,” our place, to feel happy, content and hopeful – the meaning of our life. Perhaps, just as in Jacob’s search, G-d was in the place the whole time, we just didn’t realize it.
May we who are of gray hair find our Makom, our place, and may the young be content and not wish life away. HaMakom is how we live each day.
Chag Chanukah Sameach, Happy Chanukah.
Rabbi Debbie Lefton is the rabbi of Wexner Heritage Village, the Jewish Home for the Aged since 1951 in Columbus, where she serves as the Director of Spiritual Care and leads the volunteer program. Rabbi Lefton loves working at Wexner Heritage Village because she “learns from team members and residents every day about how sacred life is.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.