The House of the Lord - Genesis 26, 27, 28

Genesis 26, 27, and 28

Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely Hashem is present in this place, and I did not know it!” - Genesis 28:16 (The Israel Bible™)

וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אָכֵן יֵשׁ יְהוָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי

Hear the verse in Hebrew

va-YEE-ketz ya-a-KOV mee-shna-TO va-YO-mer a-KHEN yesh a-do-NAI ba-ma-KOM

ha-ZEH ve-ano-KHEE lo ya-DA-tee

The House of the Lord

The above verse describes Yaakov's (Jacob) arrival in Beit El (Bethel). When Yaakov arrives in Beit El, the city near which his grandfather Avraham (Abraham) called to Hashem  (God) for the first time in the Land of Israel (Genesis 12:8), he recognizes its unique spiritual character. From that moment on, Beit El appears throughout the Bible as a special location for prayer. The Hebrew name Beit El means “The House of the Lord,” and signifies its powerful purpose. A home protects a person from the elements, extreme temperatures and rain. Similarly, we are meant to view “The House of the Lord” as a safe haven, protecting us from danger and therefore an ideal location for coming close to Hashem.

Experience the "House of the Lord"

Genesis 26:3 Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you

Yitzchak is warned that despite the famine in Eretz Yisrael, he is not to escape the hardship by fleeing to Egypt. Though Avraham went down to Egypt when there was a plague in Israel, and Yaakov likewise descended to Egypt towards the end of his life, God told Yitzchak not to leave the Land of Israel. Due to the unique spiritual status he acquired after being offered on the altar, Yitzchak was the only one of the three forefathers to never step foot outside of the Holy Land.

Genesis 27:28   May Hashem give you of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth

The Zohar, our primary mystical text, says that this blessing is what has sustained the People of Israel throughout the millennia. If so, why was Yitzchak the one who gave the blessing and not Avraham or Yaakov? Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the influential Hebrew songwriter of the 20th century, explained that both Avraham and Yaakov spent part of their lives outside Israel.  Therefore it was only Yitzchak, who never once left the Holy Land, who was worthy of bestowing this powerful blessing.

Genesis 28:11 He came upon a certain place

Where is the place that Yaakov slept? American congregational Rabbi David Stavsky explained in one of his High Holy Day sermons that the Hebrew word used in this verse is ba-makom (בַּמקום), ‘upon the place,’ and not bi-makom (בְּמקום), ‘upon a place.’ The use of the definite article means this refers to the most important spot in the entire world.  As Rabbi Stavsky said, Yaakov came upon “the place where Jacob’s father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham, had built an altar. The place where Isaac was bound to the altar. The place which, for centuries, has tied us to Hashem. Hamakom, ‘the place,’ was Mount Moriah, eventually to become the heart and soul of Jerusalem, and it was as if a magnet had drawn young Jacob to wander the hot Mesopotamian desert that night, to that particular place. And dear friends, I dare say that whatever force pulled Jacob to that place that night, pulls you and me to that place. It is a deep mystical pull. It is holiness.”