This week’s parsha, Vayeitzei, begins with Jacob on a journey, having left home abruptly after stealing his brother's birthright. In transit, he stops for the night, taking a stone for his pillow. At this moment of vulnerability, he has a powerful dream-vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder, and God promising him a great future and inheritance. When he awakes, Jacob realizes that this is not just any old resting place. He declares, "Surely ADONAI is in this place, and I, I did not know it!" (Genesis 28:16).
Every morning we thank God for opening the eyes of the blind. We all know that this is not meant to be taken literally - God does not perform some magical medicine and restore eyesight to those who are physically blind. Instead, we might understand this blessing as a recognition that we all have blind spots. There are moments in our lives that seem to sneak past us. We just don’t even see them: A hungry person on the side of the road, the miracle of the sun rising each day, the blessed capacity that we have to think, feel, understand and question. These realities hide in our blind spots and each morning we remind ourselves that God can help us open our eyes to see the miracles and challenges that are around us every day.
Jacob’s declaration that even he, one of our most beloved forefathers, had these same blind spots is both stunning and comforting. Stunning because we imagine our ancestors as having a much closer and more intimate relationship with and awareness of God. Comforting because there is a happy ending to Jacob’s blindness - his eyes are opened and he realizes, just in the nick of time, that God had been there all along, he just hadn’t noticed.
The very next verse celebrates his realization when he exclaims, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” If Jacob can recognize his blindness, perhaps we can as well.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches us about “Radical Amazement.” He asks us how we can live in this world, look at this world, engage with this world and not be constantly and radically amazed! You are reading this, thinking, taking in information, maybe drinking a cup of coffee, using your hands to navigate this webpage. You are breathing, moving, feeling, hearing, seeing! It's all pretty amazing when you open your eyes.
It’s all too easy to live in the blind spots to miss out on the miracles that are happening in every moment, to miss out on God’s Presence in this place. It’s a shame to have to look back on our lives and say, “I, I did not know it.”
Praised are You, ADONAI our God, Ruler of the universe, Who opens our eyes.”