“This is none other than the house of G-d”
Kislev 8, 5780/December 6, 2019
A beautiful thing happened on Yaakov avinu’s (our patriarch Jacob) way to Haran. Yaakov was both fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, (who swore to kill Yaakov after Yaakov, disguised as Esau, received father Yitzchak’s blessing that was intended for Esau), and was also journeying to his mother’s home town of Haran, in pursuit of a suitable bride for himself. Simultaneously fleeing from danger and setting out in search of his destiny, Yaakov makes a stop at nightfall in a place called Luz, gathers twelves stones together and places them, perhaps for protection from wild beasts, (as our sages suggest), around his head, and lays down to sleep.
“Vayasem mera’ashotav -and he placed them at his head,” (Genesis 28:11) is an unusual use of Hebrew to express the simple action that Yaakov was taking, and is, in fact, just one of many half-hidden clues embedded in our story, intimating the far-reaching significance of what is really transpiring. “Mera’ashotav – at his head,” is strikingly reminiscent of Torah’s very first word, “Beresheet – in the beginning,” and this similarity, in conjunction with the Hebrew word “Hamakom – the place” and the mention of stones (avanim), leads us to understand that the Torah is in fact teaching us about the Foundation Stone – even hashetiyah – from which the world was created in the beginning of time. This Foundation Stone, of course, is the very same Foundation Stone upon which the Ark of the Covenant rests in the Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem! And the expression HaMakom – The Place – refers to none other than the place of the Holy Temple. Yaakov was speaking the truth when, upon awakening from his visionary dream, he stated, “‘Indeed, HaShem is in this place (HaMakom), and I did not know it… How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.'” (ibid 28:16-17)
Having dreamed of a ladder planted firmly on the earth and extending to the heavens, with angels ascending and descending, Yaakov couldn’t have been more on the mark in his realization upon wakening, that this place, this same place where Avraham bound his son Yitzchak upon G-d’s command, and where Noach and Cain and Abel and Adam and Chava all built their altars in previous generations, was the House of G-d, the property of HaShem. And Yaakov was startled and even terrified when he made this discovery.
But Yaakov’s discovery upon awakening was in direct contradiction to the message of his dream, in which “HaShem was standing over him, and He said, “I am HaShem, the G-d of Avraham your father, and the G-d of Yitzchak; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed. And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall gain strength westward and eastward and northward and southward; and through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth and through your seed. 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.” (ibid 28:13-15)
So to whom did this tiny parcel of land upon which Yaakov slept, (of which our sages say contained within its diminutive perimeter the entire length and breadth of the land of Israel, all rolled up, as it were, in this place, for the purpose of verifying G-d’s words), belong? Did it belong to Yaakov and his seed, as G-d claimed, or did it belong to G-d, as Yaakov insisted upon awakening and stating “This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.”
The beauty of this O. Henry-like conundrum, is not merely that both parties are correct in their insistence that the place – HaMakom – belongs to the other, but that this very dispute embodies the deepest expression of love and represents the making of a covenant between Yaakov, on behalf of himself and his seed, for generations to come, and G-d: What’s mine is yours – the House of G-d is also the House of Yaakov, as conveyed by the prophet Isaiah, “And many peoples shall go, and they shall say, ‘Come, let us go up to HaShem’s mount, to the house of the G-d of Yaakov, and let Him teach us of His ways, and we will go in His paths,’ for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)
To paraphrase the classic lines from Casablanca, “Of all the the places (HaMakom) in all the towns in all the world, he (Yaakov) walks into Mine!” Of course, Yaakov didn’t merely happen to walk into and lay down his head and go to sleep upon the place of the House of G-d – the Holy Temple – but was led there by G-d and by his love for and faith in G-d. Until now Yaakov was concerned with attaining his father’s blessing. Now he has received G-d’s blessing. Your house is My house and My house is yours – this is the perfect description of all that the Holy Temple would become, and why it is so precious in G-d’s eyes and in the hearts of the sons of Yaakov, the children of Israel. To further quote from the movies, this nightime encounter between Yaakov and G-d was surely “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” And, of course, “We will always have Jerusalem – the place of the Holy Temple, the House of the G-d of Yaakov!”
SOURCE: The Temple Institute Rabbi Chaim Richman