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Where to find God


Friends, this is a first. In my 14 months of awkward offerings, I’ve not once skipped a weekly Torah portion, let alone gone an entire 8 days with nary a post. I could blame this state of affairs on my sprained palm (don’t ask), presently swaddled in a bright pink self-stick Ace bandage. I have been forced to type with a fully functional left hand and a hunt-and-peck-with-two-fingers right hand. It is truly amazing how much one depends on the dominant hand for EVERYTHING.

Also, it was my birthday and I had a hectic week of celebration & non-celebratory tasks. And WordPress was down for a while. I’ve got good excuses, but the bald truth of it is that I just didn’t feel like talking Torah.  I’m not that crazy about Jacob, the protagonist of our story these days.

So, a twofer: last week’s and this coming Shabbat’s Torah synopsis & commentary.

  • On his escape from Esau, Jacob dreams of an angel-filled ladder and makes a pledge to accept YHWH as his God if things go right for him.
  • Jacob meets Rachel and marries Leah, then marries Rachel and sleeps with the maid-servants, producing 10 sons & one daughter against the backdrop of anguished sisters and increasing wealth.
  • Jacob & his father-in-law Laban have a raucous parting of ways and off goes the whole Jacobean gang… right towards Esau & 400 of his closest friends
  • In one of the most mensch-like acts he ever performs, Jacob helps his entire family cross the Jabbok River as extra protection while he stays behind to wrestle with a man/messenger/spirit who, at morning, blesses him with the name Yisrael. You wrestled with God & man (and prevailed).
  • A nice reunion with Esau in which no one gets hurt. The brothers go their separate ways.
  • The story of Dinah. I cannot do it justice in a few short words – see here for details.
  • The birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel on the road to Bethlehem.
  • Isaac dies and is buried by his sons Jacob & Esau.

Whole lot of action going on. Tolstoy, anyone? Gerry Springer?

First, a poem inspired by Jacob’s ladder and the non-fiction book Into Thin Air. It’s called Everest, 1996. It came to me, almost whole, one morning in a dream-like trance. Really.

Jacob’s exclamation: God was in this place and I, I did not know! got me thinking about just where God can be found. While theologically, I’m attracted to God being everywhere (and nowhere, equally), it doesn’t fit with a story line where God is often quite clearly in one place or another, even if invisible. I Googled “where is God?” WikiHow says: It is not necessary to go to church or other place of worship to find God, though it may be very helpful. I like that for reasons I can’t explain.

What I like even better is this:

God may be in plain sight.

Jacob, who spent a lot of time cavorting with his women and generally being preoccupied with flocks & wealth & his various messed-up personal relationships, doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of time to see/commune with God. It takes a crazy ladder or a wrestling dervish to get his attention. Otherwise, God gets lost in the details of living. I get this. And so did the ritual-makers and liturgy-creators: that, I imagine, is why they created hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly reminders of God’s presence (think: blessings before meals)(think: blessings for seeing a rainbow)(and think: even a blessing for when something terrible happens for God is there too).

And this last thought: Esau deserves a heck of a lot more credit than he is normally given for not beating the crap out of his brother. He runs to Jacob, embraces him, and offers him brotherly assistance. It’s all good, he says. No use crying over spilt milk.  Later commentators are quick to poo-poo Esau’s real intentions, but the text is pretty clear: he was being a good guy. For a related and highly amusing video, click here. Forget Esau’s knife (there’s no basis for it in the text), but enjoy the scenery. I almost felt like I was there in the drama.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/17/2010 7:42 am

    God may be in plain sight — yes! Beautiful!

    Happy birthday, also, and so sorry abt your sprained hand.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      11/17/2010 3:24 pm

      Hand basically back to itself – thank the chiropractor – right now, she’s godlike in my book. Thanks for the good wishes!

  2. Herb permalink
    11/18/2010 7:31 pm

    Hi Sue: Sorry to hear about your hand. Mount Everest can be treacherous; as I found the poem hard to conquer. Love, Herb

  3. Sarah permalink
    11/23/2010 8:02 am

    I love this. I’m even later reading than you were writing – even fewer good excuses, since I so love reading, and it RSS’s to my email program. Hmph.

    The WikiHow (duh, what?) is great: I think I prefer the first quote over the second – somehow the fact that a “place of worship…might be helpful” in finding God is a nice thought, since my work is in one of those places of worship, and I hope people will join me there.

    On the other hand, I spend a lot of time forgetting to ask the question, “where is God” in my daily life, and then a lot of time regretting that I’ve forgotten to ask the question, and then a very tiny amount of time actually grappling with it. Yet it seems to be, from the story of Jacob becoming Israel, the quintessential Jewish (spiritual/faith) question. Abraham seemed good at it, Jacob surprised by it, and Moses resistant to it (though not bad at it). I’m like Moses – resistant, but not always bad – though like Jacob I sometimes find that God sneaks up on me.

    Thanks for the opportunity to ramble!

    • sue swartz permalink*
      11/23/2010 8:45 am

      Check it out: will tell you everything from finding God to being a good spouse to buying lightbulbs. Truly.

      And what a great game — which Biblical character are you in your relationship with God? A future posting, for sure.

  4. 11/28/2010 9:00 pm

    That was your week to have a down week, and I guess this week was my week to have a down week. Glad to see we’re both back in the swing of things.

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