He (Jacob) encountered (vayifga) the place and spent the night there because the sun had set… (Breishis 28:11)
He encountered (vayifga): Our sages teach this is an expression of prayer. We learn that he established the evening prayer. (Rashi)
The root word “pega” is complex. According to Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch it means “not just a meeting but always such a meeting where the one makes an impression on the other.” It is also used to mean to make repeated requests, to attack, injure, or confront unexpectedly.
One approach is that Jacob bumped into or stumbled upon the place, the Temple Mount. From another angle it was a purposeful meeting, some kind of confrontation, or a bargaining session. Which was it?
The Shela HaKodesh constructed a brief aphorism that plays on the multiple meanings of the word “pega”. In Hebrew transliteration it reads and rhymes like this, “Ain Rega B’loe Pega”, which means “There is no moment without “pega”-prayer and/or incidence.” What does that mean?
A close friend of mine was riding in the car on his way to work one morning listening to a Torah tape by Rabbi Avigdor Miller ztl. On the tape, Rabbi Miller was explaining how important it is to ask HASHEM for everything big and small in our lives. Nothing is too much of an imposition. Nothing is too petty. Just the opposite is true. The more minute a request the more we demonstrate our understanding of and coronate His authority over the entire creation. To that extent we invite Divine involvement in the very details of our lives.
At that time it was raining. He had no umbrella or rain coat. He needed to stop off at a court house to file some papers briefly. There was hardly ever a parking place in front of the court house even on a sunny day and so now he was anxiously anticipating getting soaked while running from the car to the court house and then he would spend the rest of the day at work looking and feeling like something the cat dragged in.
He decided to put into action what he just learned. He shut off the tape and while approaching his destination he lifted up his voice in sincere and spontaneous prayer and said, “HASHEM! Zev here! I really need a parking place! Please!” As he passed by the court house a yellow blinker indicated that someone was exiting from a piece of prime real estate. Hey, it worked.
He had pulled into position in front of the spot and went into reverse gear to make his parallel park when he halted himself, lifted his eyes once again and gratefully declared, “Thank You!” Then about to make the move in reverse again, he halted, and spoke out another brief prayer, “I wouldn’t mind if there would be a little extra money in the meter!” There was 15 minutes left on the meter. With great joy and only a few drops on his shoulders he was able to take care of his business. He merited not just a parking place but also the tangible sense that HASHEM was with him all day.
The Talmud says, “It would be worthy that a person should pray all day!” There is no moment in a day that we are not lacking something or at risk. Each confrontation on the changing battlefield of life is actually a “call to prayer”. So, ideally we could and should be informally praying all day. Any angst or bruise you choose is a chance to invite The Almighty into the minutiae of our lives.
No wonder afterwards, the Torah describes, “Jacob lifted up his feet and went to the land of the easterners.” (Breishis 29:1) Even though he was marching into the long night of exile, he stepped lively, because his prayerful encounter was preparation to confront the challenges ahead. Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.