In our torah portion this week, the Holy One tells our ancestor Jacob:
“Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen. 28:15
As I read this verse today, I remembered a whole host of stories about people who open the Bible to a random page, point their finger to a random verse and find their lesson for the day. As my family prepares to return home to the North Bay, this verse does that for me. I feel profound gratitude for the experience, the lessons I have gained and the people I have come to know and love in North Lake Tahoe. I also feel a sense of homecoming that is beyond just “coming home,” rather it feels like we are being brought back home. This verse is for us this month.
Immediately after this verse, Jacob awakes from his sleep, from his dream and utters one of the saddest verses in the Torah: The Holy One was in this place, and I, I did not know (Gen. 28:16).
How often do we miss the holiness of the moment we are in, of the space we occupy? I can hear a voice telling me that Lake Tahoe, at about 6,000 feet above sea level, is just that much closer to God. I know so many people feel a spiritual connection to this awesome place.
Many of us also feel a sense of holiness through our connection with each other. My favorite line in all of Les Miserables (which I see for the uncountable time this Sunday at the Western Nevada Musical Theatre so that I can support Dan Dickerman) is “to love another person is to see the face of God” or, as Martin Buber would say––to love another person is to enter into an I-Thou relationship that takes place within the presence of holiness. How many of our day-to-day encounters with people, especially the people we love, miss the possibility of holiness at their core?
How many of us feel protected by God, by a spiritual energy, by however we imagine holiness? A very dear person this week expressed the teaching that every experience offers us an opportunity to learn (or, in another teacher’s words, another opportunity for growth), that we can take from each experience lessons that can help us be better people, better wives, mothers, sisters, daughters (husbands, fathers, etc.), even if we feel awful at the time. Our ability to turn the negative into an opportunity for growth can give us the sense of protection: it might not all be for the good, but at least we can find good in it.
I pray that we can foster in ourselves the ability to know that holiness, spirituality, God, whatever you call it, is in every place we are. That we can feel a sense of being protected, rather than feel Jacob’s regret. That we can more often than not feel the holiness in our relationships, both with our loved ones and the people we deal with in our lives (the receptionist at the doctor’s office, the grocery clerk, the IT support person).