In the Torah portion for this week we read that Jacob “came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set.” What is interesting about this verse is it that it is not in chronological word order. According to Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzacki) this verse ought to have said that Jacob “came…and because the sun had set, [he] stayed there all night.” Why is this important to our story? Rashi continues his explanation by saying “The sun set...so that he should stay there overnight.” In other words, the sunset happened earlier than it should have, so that Jacob, during his “flight of fright” from his home and brother, would stop and pitch camp in this very specific spot.
Now, though this may sound strange, we have Biblical precedent for very similar incidents. We read of the sun standing still in the middle of the sky (Joshua 10:13) as well as a sundial being turned back 10 degrees (2 Kings 20:9-11). This shows us that time is not only relative to God, but that He also controls time as He so desires. Our story continues with Jacob falling asleep and dreaming of what we call “Jacob’s Ladder.”
Now was it just coincidental for the sun to suddenly set so that Jacob would have to camp out in the wild for the night? Or, was there something very special about where he was? In Hebrew the word for where he was is the word “HaMakom—The Place.” It doesn’t say Jacob came to “a place,” rather; he came to “the Place.” Throughout the Bible, there is only one location continuously referred to as “the Place.” Can you guess what Biblical site that might be? It is the Temple Mount. Mount Moriah is “the Place” that is consistently called “HaMakom” in the Bible.
Jacob came to “the Place” when suddenly the sun set causing Jacob to stop and retire for the night. And he dreams… Jacob is laying on the very spot where his father and grandfather had come many years before, for the “binding of Isaac” story. While Jacob sleeps, God makes a promise to him; a very similar promise to the one God had made to Abraham. In a nutshell God says, “I will cause you to inherit the land and multiply your seed so that all the nations of the world will be blessed through you…” But then God adds something, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.”
The promises God made with the forefathers are still in effect today. God is with the people of Jacob, He has kept them throughout the many centuries of exile, and He is bringing His people back to their ancient homeland to one day (hopefully soon) worship Him in the place where Jacob’s Dream once connected heaven and earth. As God once said through the Prophet Isaiah, “[H]ear now, O Jacob My servant...I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring...I am the Lord…Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ to the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built’…Saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the Temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” How amazing it is to live in the days Jacob and Isaiah could only dream about!