This is one of my favorite lessons on this week’s Torah Portion, Vayeitzei. It is a story called,
“Opening Your Eyes” from the Book of Miracles by Lawrence Kushner. It goes like this:
Reuven and Shimon hurried along among the crowd crossing through the Red Sea.
They never once looked up.
They noticed only that the ground under their feet was still a little muddy – like a beach at low tide.
“Yucch!” said Reuven, “there’s mud all over this place!”
“Blecch!” said Shimon, “I have muck all over my feet!”
“This is terrible,” answered Reuven.
“When we were slaves in Egypt, we had to make our bricks out of mud, just like this!”
“Yeah,” said Shimon. “There’s no difference between being a slave in Egypt and being free here.”
And so it went, Reuven and Shimon whining and complaining all the way to freedom.
For them the Sea did not part. There was no miracle, only mud.
Their eyes were closed. They might as well have been asleep.
Something like this once happened to Jacob, our father.
He dreamed of a ladder joining heaven and earth.
Upon it angels were climbing up and down.
Then God appeared and talked to Jacob.
When he awoke the next morning, Jacob said to himself,
“Wow! God was in this very place all along, and I didn’t even know it!”
The great Biblical commentator Rashi explained what Jacob meant:
“If I had known that God would be here, then I wouldn’t have gone to sleep!”
To be a Jew means to wake up and to keep your eyes open to the many beautiful, mysterious, and holy things that happen all around us every day.