Rabbi Marc Saperstein is the principal of the Leo Baeck College in London and a professor of Jewish history and homiletics. He has also taught at the George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Harvard Divinity School. He is the author of books and articles on various aspects of Jewish history, literature, and thought, and is widely recognized as an authority on the history of Jewish preaching. Before leaving the United States, he was vice president of the American Academy for Jewish Research.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, describes the first part of the journey of the biblical Jacob. Fleeing the wrath of his brother, whose birthright he purchased and whose blessing he stole, Jacob is “heading for the exits.” Fleeing his home, along the way he stops and dreams of angels and God. Jacob awakens from his dream with a start and declares to no one in particular: Achein yeish Adonai bamakom hazeh v’anochi lo yadati, “Surely God is in this place and I [“I” is repeated] did not know it!” (Gen. 28:16).