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    Making deals with God – Vayyetzei

    Jacob's Ladder, by William Blake, c. 1800

    On his way to an uncertain future, Jacob had a dream.

    A ladder linked earth and heaven. Angels of God were ascending and descending the rungs.

    Jacob drew assurance both from the dream and from God’s promise to be with him wherever he went. No wonder Jacob was moved and said on awakening, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

    He then made a promise. “If God will be with me,” he said, “and will protect me on this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I return to my father’s house safely, then shall the Lord be my God” (Gen. 28:21).

    Does this mean that his acceptance of God was conditional upon the Divine promise being fulfilled?

    Surely that’s not the highest form of belief, nor should a human being make deals with God, as if to say, “If You perform, then you will be my God – but if not, I will have nothing to do with You”?

    Rashi and many others read the Hebrew differently, not “then the Lord shall be my God” but “…and if the Lord is my God, then shall this stone be God’s house”.

    The message then becomes, “If all goes well and the Lord indeed protects me, then this place where He revealed Himself to me shall become a place of Divine worship”.

    In this sense the patriarch is saying, “This place which was so meaningful to me will remain special in my life”.

    The Mishnah makes a somewhat similar point when it says, “One who sees a place where miracles were performed for Israel must say a b’rachah…” (B’rachot 9:1).

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