Traveling from Beersheva, Jacob falls asleep one night along the way of his journey. His pillow? A stone. Cold, hard, nothing. He has a dream. Our forefather dreams a dream of a ladder, giant, stretching up and up and up. And on that ladder are angels, ascending, descending, between Heaven and Earth. He stands in his dream, looking at the site in front of him, and is joined by God at his side. Waking from the experience, Jacob dedicates the stone on which he slept as a pillar to the Holy One. Rock transforms into sanctified body.
How do the most mundane of objects become holy? This time a stone, other times a book or a room–in an unexpected moment, things go from being things to Things through the experiences we have with them. Jacob’s rock-pillow becomes a pillar to God. On campus, a piece of paper transforms from flyer to testament of students’ collective programming prowess–an artifact of their creation. Our Hillel buildings evolve from brick and mortar to holy vessels through the relationships sustained within them.
Holiness in an object is merely testimony, memory, of a greater moment–one that happened, one that is happening, one that may happen soon. Enjoy the artifact, and then take the time to appreciate the experiences embodied in its existence.
Rabbi David Singer is executive director of UC San Diego Hillel.