“Jacob left Beer-Sheba, and set out for Haran. He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set” (Genesis 28:10-11). On his journey towards Haran, Jacob encounters darkness in a place that the Torah simply calls “a certain place.” What was this “certain place”?
According to some commentators, that “certain place” was Mount Moriah, the future site of the Beit Ha-Mikdash (The Holy Temple in Jerusalem). The place had personal meaning to Jacob, as it was the site where his father Isaac was bound on an altar, almost offered up as a sacrifice. If this was the “certain place” where Jacob had arrived, the combination of physical darkness, along with the emotional and psychological terror of standing in a spot that certainly traumatized his father, must have been a frightening experience for Jacob.
There are others who read the Hebrew word for “a certain place” – “Makom” – as a metaphor for God. “Ha-Makom” is actually one of the titles given to God in the Talmud. Read this way, the Hebrew “Va-Yifga Ba-Makom” would be translated “He encountered God.” This was Jacob’s very first encounter with God, and it happened in the dark, “for the sun had set.”
Whether his encounter was with his father’s past, or with God, the Midrash teaches that Jacob’s reaction to being in the dark, all alone, was to pray: “Jacob initiated Tefillat Arvit (the Evening Prayer)…at evening a person should say, May it be Your will, O Lord my God, that you bring me out of darkness into light” (Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 68:11).
We are taught: “The actions of our forefathers serve as a symbolic lesson for all future generations.” If you ever find yourself “all alone in the dark,” either physically or emotionally, always remember that the natural instinct is to pray — just like Jacob did – – for God to “Bring us out of darkness into light.”