We all have sacred places. Places that make us feel completely safe, held. Places that expand our consciousness. That connect us with the world of the unseen, either by their majestic grandeur or their simple peace. As we go through life, those places and their talismans shift. Your crib and blanket give way to a special park or beach, or a magnificent vista. Any places that come with a special knowing and a healing resonance we respond to as sacred, and accord them reverence and appreciation.
This week’s reading finds Jacob on the road. He’s left his father’s house and his brother’s anger; he’s off to find a wife. The image of a stone shows up several times, early as a pillow and later as the memorial of a peace treaty. Both times, the sites are declared holy places.
Stones sometimes say Notice me! when I’m out walking. I especially like it when they appear as I’m wrestling with a problem, trying to gain insight and clarity. They come home to sit with others that said hello in the past.
Altars everywhere. That’s a lot of what Torah is about. Journeying from sacred place to sacred place. Finding them, recognizing them, naming them. Acknowledging both the divine presence and the reciprocity of that relationship.
This reading brings us the phrase Jacob’s Ladder, a stairway he dreams of, angels coming down and angels going up. Last week for Halloween folks had faux cobwebs everywhere, obscuring things. This is the opposite, a route of direct transmission. He calls it HaMakom, literally “the place,” as in God was in this place and I did not know.
HaMakom is a place to ask questions as much as to hear answers. There’s a quality about the asking, getting to the bedrock of your sincerity, that clears away all the extras.
The Hebrew word for angel is generally translated as messenger. And that’s ultimately what angels are. Bringing you what you need when you need to hear, see, or receive it. These messengers can be the person who stops to help you with your flat tire or the stone on your path.
We are those messengers too. Appearing in hamakom for one another as and when we are meant to be. Angels in our human skins.
In Nicole Krauss’s History of Love she says: Angels sleep unsoundly. They toss and turn, trying to understand the mystery of the living. They know so little about what it’s like to fill a new prescription for glasses and suddenly see the world again, with a mixture of disappointment and gratitude. Because being human is more complicated, more raucous, and more painful. But the more we engage with what we’re here to do, the more vital it feels to do it well and right. The more clearly we see.
Hamakom is not just your own little bubble. It’s all of our bubbles interacting at the same time. So it’s important to be here now. In hamakom. For you and for the rest of us.
Whenever stones or angels talk to you, listen up. Hamakom is wherever you go, wherever you are invited. It’s where you are right now. We’re always in hamakom.