Know Where You Are Going

Know Where You Are Going
A path in autumn, leading to the crest of a little hill, where you can't see what is coming up.

Pirkei Avot, a book of foundational principles of Jewish Ethics, teaches, “Know where you come from and to where you are going.”  (Avot 3:1)  In order to gain this deep knowledge of self, we sometimes have to pause between the place we come from and the place we are going.

When our ancestor Jacob begins his journey, he knows his external plan. He leaving Beersheba and heading towards Haran, leaving his troubled relationship with his brother and looking to meet his future wife. At the end of the journey’s first day, he pauses – not to reflect consciously, but to go to sleep.

Consciousness comes, whether he wants it to or not! While asleep, Jacob dreams about the space between coming and going. He sees a giant ladder between heaven and earth where angels are coming down and going up – and then he sees God standing over him. God explains that Jacob’s journey to Haran is part of a long multigenerational family story, and only the first leg of Jacob’s life journey. Jacob wakes filled with awe at discovering, for the first time, a place between external activities. He exclaims, “God is in this place and I, I did not know it!” He promises that if the dream is a true dream, he will dedicate his life to spiritual service.

Where do you come from and where you are going? What future do you dream about at night? When and where do you pause so that you can find your answers?

Inspired by Rabbi Mimi Feigelson

For more reflections on Parshat Vayetze, click here.

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