Jacob took the stone that he had placed under his head and set it up as a *MATZEVAH* and poured oil on top of it. (Genesis 28:18)
One person’s talisman, may be another’s tzotchkee. This week the Torah tells us the story of, Jacob, our spiritual ancestor and his life changing experience. There was a ladder, an ascending and descending angel and God standing next to him (or on him depending on how you interpret the text) bearing witness to watching it all. Jacob wakes up, profoundly impacted by the dream. So much so, he takes the rock pillow that served as the foundation for that evening’s sleep and anoints it as a MATZEVAH.
Most translations use the word ‘pillar’. Pillar does not quite capture what is happening to the modern ear. We need a word that describes the act of taking an everyday, ordinary object — one that happened to be involved in an extra-ordinary event — and announcing or acknowledging at as something else. Something to preserve. Something to cherish. Something to honor. A MATZEVAH.
No matter what word we may choose, chances are we all have MATZEVAHS populating the spaces we inhabit. It may be the object that some tradition or community tells us is significant. Or, it may be something that only you deem as worth of such a designation. Just like Jacob, we categorize and catalog these ‘rock pillows’ of ours to help us remember, capture and recreate the magic and the power of those experiences which made them into a MATZEVAH in the first place.
It is great, even important to make these MATZEVAHS. In our lives we need access to all of the magic and meaning we can get. We also have to pay attention, too, as we human beings have a penchant for transforming these objects – that serve as reminders of past moments or catalysts for future moments – into more. Sometimes, these MATZEVAHS, stop being the means but the ends themselves. Instead of pathways towards meaning, these objects become stumbling blocks that get in the way of us experiencing what we ultimately seek.
We do know that as impactful as Jacob’s ladder dream was to him … there will be more dreams in his future. I would like to think that his rock pillow MATZEVAH served as catalyst to open his heart and mind to the transformative dreams that will follow.
I will strive make sure my MATZEVAHS do the same.