Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. (Genesis 28:11)
Even if you like your pillow hard as a rock, I doubt that you would actually use a stone or a rock as a pillow. In Vayetzei, the Torah story we read this past Shabbat, that is exactly what Jacob did as he fled the wrath of his brother Esau. Maybe it is my modern sleeping sensibilities that prevent me from imagining sleeping comfortably on a stone pillow. However, If we follow along in the story we discover that Jacob’s uncomfortable choice led him to something much more significant than a stiff neck. Resting in this uncomfortable setting led him to … encountering the Holy One … in the dreamscape we know as Jacob’s ladder. And while there are countless interpretations and imaginings about the meaning and import of the ladder, the dream, etc…. I am stuck on the connection between the discomfort of the stone pillow and the gateway to divinity it appears to have opened.
I sense a deep, yet lofty, truth in this element of the story.
I am endeavoring to live this truth as the war in Israel and Palestine continues. My discomfort comes from my belief that there is more than one truth and more than one narrative at play in this part of the world that is so important to so many people … and the constant challenge of hearing, holding and honoring those truths in this moment. I feel pulled by fear and family, ideology and psychology, demographics and demagoguery to choose a side and to react accordingly. That pull is not as strong as the one that compels me towards the discomfort of creating and inhabiting spaces that allow for outrage for both Israeli and Palestinian injustice, injury and death.
I believe that whether it be informally in the conversations we have with one another or formally in the moments we gather, organize or rally that we must create spaces in which both narratives and truths have a place. The world is not very good at creating such spaces right now. All the more reason, we must strive to do so. How do we welcome and begin to acclimatize ourselves to this discomfort? Perhaps it begins within as we try and open our mind and hearts to the journeys, sufferings and fears of the other. As uncomfortable as it may be and difficult to maintain, I truly believe that this is the kind of stone pillow discomfort that opens the gateway towards the Sacred and the Holy. At this moment, we can use all of the sacred and holy space, spirit and energy that we can muster.