Upon awakening from his very eventful sleep on Har HaMoriah, Yaakov seems to say something very troubling (28:16): “Achein Yeish Hashem BaMakom HaZeh VeAnochi Lo Yadati,” “Surely Hashem is in this place, and I did not know.” It seems from this Pasuk that had Yaakov known that Hashem’s intense presence was on the mountain he would not have slept there. Considering the miracle of the rocks joining, his mystical dream and prophecy there, Yaakov should have realized that it was the will of Hashem that he would be there that night. So why did Yaakov say that he wouldn’t have slept had he known Hashem’s intense presence was there if it was clearly the will of Hashem that he be there?
Rav Moshe Feinstein understands Yaakov’s statement in an interesting fashion. Before this incident, Yaakov thought that the only way one can serve Hashem is through purely spiritual actions such as learning Torah and engaging in other Mitzvot. However, actions such as sleeping, eating and drinking cannot be mediums through which one can serve Hashem. This can shed some light on Rashi’s comment (28:11) that Yaakov did not sleep during his fourteen-year stay at the Yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver, for Yaakov thought that sleeping is not a way to serve Hashem.
Yaakov’s incredulity was predicated on this understanding of physical actions. By performing miracles and causing Yaakov to sleep on the future site of the Beit HaMikdash, Hashem wanted to teach Yaakov that one can serve Hashem through physical actions as well. However, one can do so only by sanctifying the physical and using it to help others. Food can be sanctified by offering it to those in need and having a genuine appreciation of Hashem’s kindness in giving it to us.
Once Yaakov understood this lesson, he made sure never to forget it. By calling the rock on which he slept “Beit Elokim” he demonstrated that something as mundane as a rock could have an attribute of Godliness in it. This explains why he subsequently requested clothes and food- he now realized the value of such things in the service of Hashem.
We should learn from the message that Hashem communicated to Yaakov that everything can be used so serve Hashem. Let’s make sure that everything we do is to serve Hashem.