God is in this place?

This week we read one of my favorite Torah stories. Jacob leaves home, happens upon a place, lies down, places a stone beneath his head, upon a stone and has a dream. Angels ascend and descend on a ladder that stretches from the earth to the heavens. He awakens and exclaims, “God is in this place, and I did not know it.” From a theological perspective, I am troubled by the idea that Jacob sees God as limited to this particular place. I hold tight to the notion that God is in all places at all times. Even the darkest places.

This weekend we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Kristalnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. November 9, 1938 ushered in one of the darkest periods in Jewish history in particular and in the history of humankind. If I am to be consistent, then I must also believe that God was in this place and in all the places where human beings suffered (and continue to suffer). I must then ask myself, “What is God doing while the innocent suffer?” I have come to the conclusion that God’s angels are constantly descending the ladder from heaven with messages for us, challenging us to ascend the ladder toward the Divine. God prays to us, “Hear My voice, as you did in the days of old, and raise your humanity to the level of Godliness with which I endowed you.”

We live in a world where bearing the brunt of the bully is accepted by too many as a rite of passage. God is in the locker room, the school hallway and the workplace. God has told us what is good and right. And God has given us the power to stand against those who would tear down a human being in order to elevate themselves. God is indeed in this place. Perhaps the question we should be asking is, “Where are we?”

Dedicated to my grandmother, Sonia Neiman, on her 94th birthday.

Rabbi Craig Scheff

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