In my parashah, Jacob journeys to Haran. On his way, he stops for the night and dreams of a stairway going from the ground to the heaven, with angels going up and down on it. In the morning, he creates a monument and names the area Beth El, or House of God. He continues on his journey, eventually he reaches Haran, and meets Laban and his daughters Leah, and Rachel.
Laban promises Jacob he can marry Rachel if he works for him for seven years. When those seven years are up, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah. Laban tells Jacob that if he works for him for another seven years, he can have Rachel. Jacob agrees, and when the seven years are up Laban gives Jacob Rachel. Jacob fathers twelve children and continues to work for Laban for years.
Eventually, Jacob decides to return home. Laban agrees to split their herd, with Jacob taking the spotted and striped sheep and goats. But when Jacob’s herd starts to multiply rapidly, Laban’s sons suspect that Jacob cheated them. In fear, Jacob and his family flee, but Laban eventually catches up with them. They reconcile, and Jacob’s family continues to go their way.
One verse caught my eye in particular. When Jacob woke up from his dream, he said “God was in this place, and I did not know.”.
What does that mean? I grappled with this for a while, trying to extract wisdom, when it came to me.
I realized that what Jacob was trying to say was “I was surrounded by holiness, and I didn’t even know it”.
I think that he was in awe, because, he, like many others had the idea that God could only exist in the holiest of places, and when he opened his eyes, he was also opening his eyes to the Nsim Bchol Yom, Everyday Miracles.
He realized that holiness, or God, for that matter, is everywhere, even in the places we don’t expect. He said “How awe inspiring is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven”.
Now, on the surface, that can appear that Beth El was a sacred place, which might be true, but when I dug deeper, I saw it as proof that Jacob realized there was holiness in everything. He was able to see a newfound beauty by noticing that it was the work of God.
I have enough food, clean water, and other resources that make my life comfortable. An abundance of those things can make me take them for granted, and not realize how blessed I am to receive those things.
So many people have those things, but so many more people don’t. Estimates suggest that almost 800 million people globally are food insecure, 780 million without clean water, and some estimates show that there are over a billion humans living without adequate shelter.
This is such an overwhelming number, and it leaves many asking the same question “What can I do?”.
Last summer, I volunteered at an organization called Urban Gleaners. They take leftover food from restaurants, industrial kitchens, and caterers, and repackage and redistribute it to the hungry. All of the food they receive would’ve gone to waste, if they hadn’t stepped in and fed the hungry with it.
This relates to my Torah Portion, because, the food for the hungry is there, and we didn’t know. Hunger is an issue of distribution, not amount. According to the United Nations, every year ⅓ of food produced for human consumption is wasted. That’s why we need organizations like Urban Gleaners.
Imagine if we drastically reduced that number, and the food was able to go to the mouths of the hungry, instead of the trash.
My Torah portion has taught me to be more resourceful and seek change. It taught me that I can use the resources provided to me to a further extent then I thought was possible.
It also taught me that I have the ability and potential to make change in the world, even if I don’t know it.
Now that I am a Bar Mitzvah, I will try to carry that mindset with me. I will try fixing my broken stuff with homemade solutions, and try using everything that I already have, before buying more. But also, I will actively seek change, and stand up against injustice, because the ability to make change is with us,
And we did not even know.