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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Vayetzie (71)

Genesis 28:11

And he alighted upon the place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took some stones of that place and arranged them around his head and he lay down in that place.


Later on (in the middle of his long comment on verse 17) Rashi says that Jacob reached Haran and then thought he should have prayed in the place that his fathers prayed (Mt. Moriah) so he decided to go back to that place. And that is the place referred to in this verse.

This is in the way of background to some questions I would ask. Jacob makes a vow (verses 20-22) and ends it with these words " And all that You will give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

But when we read the other words in his vow we see a grammatical inconsistency.

Can you see it?

Your Answer:


A Question: Jacob refers to G-d in the third person throughout his vow - "He will guard me; He will give me…" But in our verse Jacob switches abruptly to the speaking to G-d in the second person (You) by saying "And all that You will give me I will surely give a tenth to You." This seems strange.

Another question: Rashi had said that Jacob consciously went back to the place his fathers prayed at, which was Mt. Moriah - So why was he so surprised when he woke up (verses 16, 17) that it was a holy place and "the gate to Heaven'? Was it not for that reason that he went there ?

Can you think of an explanation?

Hint: Read the verse 16 carefully.

Your Answer:


An Answer: There is a difference between the two names of G-d - Elokim and Hashem. The former is considered the G-d of justice and a more impersonal G-d. While Hashem is the G-d of Mercy and the more personal one. Of course there is only G-d, these are just different aspects of the One G-d.

With that in mind we can understand what is going on here. Jacob went back to the place that his parents prayed at. It was like going to the Temple or a synagogue. A place where one prays to G-d, but this is not necessarily a unique personal encounter with G-d. Jacob then had his dream - where Hashem appeared to him personally; with a personal vision. So when Jacob woke up and realized that G-d appeared to him personally he said " Behold Hashem is in this place and I did not know." He did not know that the personal Hashem would meet him. This is what surprised him.


This dual aspect of G-d appears in every blessing we say. For example we say: "Blessed are You, King of the world that all was created with His word." The blessing begins by speaking to G-d directly (personally ) by saying You. Then we switch to "His word" receding from the personal encounter to seeing G-d as more distant, by referring to Him in the third person.. This is the nature of the human relationship to G-d - at times close, at time more distant.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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