Time for another truly wandering and tangential musing.
There are so many things in parashat Vayigash on which to expound. Over the years, I've written about a number of them (though I always seem to keep coming back to the teleological question of a Divine plan) and I commend to you the various musings on Vayigash you can find on my web site. (www.durlester.com/musings.htm)
This year, I got stuck on one little piece of text and a related piece of commentary. One piece of text which is somewhat inconsequential to the story, but just started to bother me.
No surprise, of course, that, on his way down to Egypt to see his long lost son, Yaakov stops at Beersheva and offers up a sacrifice to the G"d of his father, Yitzkhak. Yaakov had stopped there before, and Yitzhak had built an altar there.
No surprise as well that, after making his offering, we read, in verse 46:2- "G"d called to Israel in a vision by night."
In the Etz Hayim commentary, there are, oddly conflicting notes. The first note to verse 2, the "p'shat" or plain meaning says that night is the usual time of divine communication to the Patriarchs. The second note, the "drash" or explanatory insight note however, it says that Yaakov "is the only one of the patriarchs to whom G"d speaks only at night."
Without even going back through the text to verify it, I felt confident that such a search would confirm that G"d had spoken to Yitzkhak and Avraham at differing times of day. I wasn't as sure that a search would reveal that G"d only spoke to Yaakov at night, and, in fact, it isn't at all clear that this is so (see 32:2, 35:1, 35:9, However, the "significant" Divine interactions in Yaakov's life all did happen at night (the encounters at Bethel, the wrestling et al.)
Is there a difference between daytime and nighttime Divine encounters? Or is this really a manifestation of our own inner lack of faith and surety of the existence of G"d at all?
It might be interesting to undertake a study of the various Divine encounters in all of our sacred texts, and see how many were daytime and how many were nighttime encounters. Is there a pattern? Does the frequency of nighttime encounters increase over time? If so, is that the inevitable result of humankind's continual increase in knowledge and understand of the workings of the universe, and/or frustration with G"d's failures to act on our behalf? Is it easier to dismiss a nighttime encounter, saying that it was simply a dream, and imagined by the dreamer? What would Freud or Jung say?
G"d parts the waters of the Sea of Reeds in full daylight. That particular miracle is not hidden from view, not made fuzzy by twilight or nighttime. Would our history be different had we crossed the sea at night? Is the night our scapegoat, our apologia, our rationalization? Still, we must remember that, in this encounter, there was no communication between the people and G"d - just an action. In many ways, the action could be just as miraculous by day or by night. Can the same be said of G"d speaking to humans?
If G"d is still speaking as that "kol d'mama daka," that "still, small, voice" is it easier to hear by day or by night? (One might argue that it tends to be quieter at night and thus easier to hear G"d then, but I don't think I agree with that view. Introspective moments are possible at any time of day or night, if one seeks to have them.
Yet, if G"d comes to us only in dreams and vision, whether by day or by night, can we ever really be sure that it is G"d speaking to us? If G"d speaks to us only inside our own mind, can we ever really be sure that it is G"d that is speaking to us? I guess we have to take it on faith. Still, it would be nice is G"d just spoke up, out loud, one day, to all of us, and said "Hineni."
Until that day comes, should it ever come, all we can do is have faith, and speak up, out loud, every day, saying to G"d, "Hineni."
©2007 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Vayigash 5767-Two Sticks
Vayigash 5765-One People
Vayigash 5763-Things Better Left Unsaid
Vayigash 5761/5766-Checking In
Vayigash 5762-Teleology 101: Does Gd Play Dice With the World?
Vayigash 5764-Incidental Outcomes and Alternate Histories
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