We read in Parashat Vayeitzei of Yaakov’s famous prophecy which he beheld in a nocturnal vision as he slept on the roadside during his journey from Canaan to Charan. Upon awakening, Yaakov exclaimed, “Indeed, the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know!” (28:16). Rashi explains Yaakov’s response to mean, “If I had known, I would not have slept in a place as sacred as this.”
Rav Meir Horowitz of Dzikov, in his Imrei Noam, notes the symbolic significance of Yaakov’s response. Often, he writes, a person assumes that he is incapable of prayer or other forms of spiritual engagement in his “place,” in his current condition or circumstances. He feels that his shortcomings and failures, or the spiritually hostile conditions in his current environment, make any religious act he performs undesirable before God, and his prayers unwanted. Such thoughts can easily lead a person to “sleep,” to despair, to cease all efforts to serve God and to build a connection with Him. Convinced of his own unworthiness and his undesirable status in the Almighty’s eyes, he falls into a state of spiritual slumber, figuring there is no value to any effort he would think to invest in his avodat Hashem.
Yaakov’s response, the Rebbe of Dzikov taught, is one which we should all be telling ourselves at all times: “Indeed, the Lord is present in this place.” At whatever religious level we currently find ourselves, God is there, eagerly awaiting our prayers and devotion. As long as we are sincere in our efforts to reach higher and to connect with Him, then He is present even “in this place,” at our current level, in our current condition, and in our current circumstances. Once we become aware of God’s presence in whichever “place” we happen to be, we will not allow ourselves to “sleep,” to despair and lose faith in the value of our efforts. This precept, that God “is present in this place,” helps ensure that even at times when we feel inadequate and deficient, we will not lose our energy, passion and zeal in the service of the Almighty, as we will remain confident that He is present even then, lovingly embracing every bit of work we invest to serve Him.