One of my favorite passages from our prayerbook, Mishkan T’fillah, introduces the Shabbat evening Barechu:
Entrances to holiness are everywhere.
The possibility of ascent is all the time,
even at unlikely times and through unlikely places.
There is no place on earth without the Presence.
These words were written by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, based on his understanding of Jacob’s encounter with God in this week’s Torah portion. As he flees from his brother, Esau, Jacob stops for the night in an apparently random place. He falls asleep and dreams of divine messengers (“angels”) going up and down a ladder. God then appears and speaks to him directly, promising Jacob prosperity and protection as he journeys to his mother’s family in the north. Upon waking, Jacob declares, “Surely God is in this place and yet I did not know it.”
As Rabbi Kushner’s prayer/observation teaches us, this Torah passage is a reminder that we can experience a sense of the sacred in any place and at any time. God’s Presence is not a revelation so much as an awareness. All it takes is for us to notice and to appreciate the miracle of our lives at any moment. The Jewish mystical tradition teaches us that creation is an expression of the divine. The world in which we live is imbued with holiness, available to us whenever we acknowledge it.
There are many practices available to us for this acknowledgement. One is the simple act of blessing food, taking a moment to acknowledge our gratitude for what we have. Reciting the Shema when we wake up in the morning and before we go to sleep at night is another. Regular time for reflection, whether through prayer or meditation, adds to our sense of the presence of the sacred throughout our day. Like Jacob, an awareness of holiness wherever we are, gives us strength for the journey ahead.
–Rabbi Drorah Setel