Friday, 27 Nov 2009

Written by Rabbi Brian Fox
In her latest book, 1 Aviva Zornberg, citing Rashi, gives several profound insights into the words va-yifga ba-makom, “and he lighted upon the place” (Gen. (28:11). Va-yifga is not a simple “alighting”, for there are overtones of pouncing upon the place, landing from a great height upon the place, meeting the place.  There is an interaction with this place like no other (except perhaps Sinai), suggesting that the place was ready for Jacob, just  as Jacob was ready for the place.

Did the place seek out Jacob or did Jacob seek out the place? Was one fated (b’shert) for the other, or were they mutually b’shert? After all, we come from a tradition where places can move. Rabbinic legend asserts that Sinai was held over the heads of the children of Israel and would have been dropped on them if they had not agreed to accept the Torah (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 88a). So we might imagine this place—its name changed by Jacob from Luz to Beth El (Gen. 28:19) and identified with  Mount Moriah and Jerusalem—was rushing towards Jacob as much as he was rushing towards it (cf. Rashi, based on B. Hullin 91b).

To make a personal application: to what extent does one choose the rabbinate as a career? Or does the rabbinate choose you? I am not alone among my rabbinic colleagues in feeling that God smiled on me when he/she chose this as my life direction. Nearly 40 years, and not one unhappy day. Not a bad choice, God!

Rabbi Brian Fox
November 2009

1 Aviva Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious (New York: Schocken, 2009); cf. Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis (London: Doubleday, 1995), p. 187.

The views expressed in this D’var Torah do not necessarily reflect the position of Leo Baeck College.