Shall I take a cue from Jacob as to how to celebrate a Seudat Hoda'ah, a Thanksgiving feast, after experiencing my mother's passing, new grandchildren, a tornado, two hurricanes, three earthquakes, Pip's death, and numerous powerful encounters?
Waking from a monumental dream of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, a frightened Jacob says, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the Lord's abode and this is the gate of the heavens (Genesis 28:17)," and goes back to sleep!
Waking again from his dream of epic promises, Jacob makes his own promise focusing, not on the monumental, but the practical, "If the Lord will be with me, will guard me on this way, will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, then this stone which I have set as a monument shall become a House of the Lord, and whatever You give me, I shall tithe to You (Verses 20-22)."
I would not have been able to go back to sleep, and, I'd like to believe that I would have responded to the historic promises rather than make a conditional promise emphasizing bread and clothes. I would expect a "Thank You," from Jacob, instead of falling asleep and then playing "Let's Make A Deal," although it would make an interesting Thanksgiving celebration...
Only post-dream Jacob could peacefully sleep in such an awesome place. Jacob, before the dream that allowed him to understand his potential would have been too intimidated to sleep. Once he understood that the holiest place, even the most awesome vision, is only the bottom step of a ladder reaching to eternity, he felt safe sleeping as a baby secure in his mother's arms. Jacob took the message of his powerful experience as a promise that he would succeed as long as he would be a climber, step by step up the ladder of life. His promise was conditioned on God helping him with the basics necessary to live every step of life as climbing. His "Thank You" was to build a life, one step at a time. His "Thank You" for the epic vision was conditioned on God helping him climb up the ladder toward that vision. Jacob understood that a person, or a nation, can only maintain a grand vision if they feel that God is there each step of the way. A grand vision demands countless small steps, each guided by God's constant attention. Perhaps this is the meaning of the Midrash that the twelve stones around Jacob's head unified into a single stone; Jacob insisted that only with each step secure could he focus on his vision of The Foundation Stone.
We offer thanks today for the small blessings that allow us to climb, step by step, toward our highest vision. We should take a cue from Jacob and, as our Thanksgiving, offer the promise, "If You will take care of our basic needs, we will continue to strive to build a life that will become a monument to Your presence in the world." Then, secure in God's promise, perhaps a short nap.
I hope, please God, to post the other side of this equation, "What happens to our vision when we do not experience God's support?" after Thanksgiving on The Foundation Stone Blog.
Wishing you a restful Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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