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Lift Up Your Legs, There Are Miracles To Be Seen

Miracles are all around us. It is not that they do not exist. It is instead that we fail to see them. That is the Torah’s perspective.

And so, we read many times, the refrain, “And he lifted up his eyes (vayisah einav).” Abraham heads out on a journey with the faith that God will direct him to a special and holy place. “On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place from afar.” (Genesis 22) Later, an angel stays Abraham’s hand as he is about to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Miraculously a ram appears, and he sacrifices it instead of his son. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and he saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.”

Did the ram appear out of nowhere? Was the place magically created out of thin air? Of course not. They were there all along. The power of miracles is held in our eyes. Miracles are all around us. It is a matter of lifting up our eyes.

And yet, this week, Jacob does not set out on a journey because God commands him like his grandfather Abraham. Instead, Jacob is on the run. After tricking his brother Esau out of the birthright, Esau threatens to kill him. Fearing for his life, Jacob runs away to his extended family’s home in Haran, the land Abraham left. As night falls, he becomes exhausted and lays down to sleep. He dreams of a ladder going up to heaven with angels going up and going down on it. He sees God standing beside him.

He awakens and proclaims, “Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it! How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God.” (Genesis 28) In the most ordinary of places, there in a nondescript patch of desert, he finds God. His eyes are opened by the experience.

The Torah, however, does not use the phrase, “And he lifted up his eyes.” His eyes do not see something that was there all along. And yet, Jacob was transformed. Is his fear no more? It does not appear so. In fact, his dream fills him with awe and dread. He fears what he sees. The Hebrew of these words are connected. Awe is related to fear.

To see is to fear.

And then, after naming the place Beth-El, Jacob sets out on his journey once again.

“And Jacob lifted up his legs (vayisah raglav) and he went toward the land.” (Genesis 29) Is his heart filled with awe? Or with fear? Is the difference ever so obvious or exact? Jacob understands miracles await him. He sets out. He takes the steps. He refuses to allow fear to deter him from moving forward.

Yesterday, I set out on my bike again. It has been nearly three months since I was hit by a car. And it has been months of playing the particulars of the accident over and over again in my mind. The more time one has to perseverate over such details the more fear creeps into the soul. “I should have. I should not have. What if I? What if I did not?” And so, I decided, not only to go for a ride by myself as I did on that day in August, but also to ride on the exact street on which I was hit.

There is only one choice but to lift up your legs and ride forward.

To be consumed by awe is to be filled with fear.

Sometime later Jacob lifts up his eyes. (Genesis 33) He sees his brother Esau. His brother no longer wishes to kill him. Instead, Esau forgives him and the two are reunited.

Perhaps that is miracle enough.

It is always a matter of lifting up your eyes.

But first it is a matter of lifting up your legs.