Two of life’s major challenges are 1) to seek out our unique mission in the world, and 2) to seek Hashem’s Presence and guiding influence during our journey.
This challenge is alluded to at the beginning of our Parsha. Vayetzei opens up with Yaakov fleeing from Eisav; sent by his mother to find a wife in Charan. On his way he stops “Bamakom” at an unidentified spot that tradition identifies as Har Hamoriah. There he has a spiritual dream in which God assures Yaakov of ongoing Divine protection.
When he wakes up from this incredible dream Yaakov declares:
“And Jacob awakened from his sleep, and he said, "Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know”
In response to this pivotal moment, Yaakov declares “Anochi Lo Yadati”. “It is time for me to explore the Anochi- to personalize these experiences and figure out what this all means specifically to me.
According to tradition, Yaakov saw angels ascending to God’s Kisei Hakavod, Throne of Glory, and then descending back to earth. One of the images engraved on the Kisei Hakavod is that of Yaakov. Yaakov was unaware that his likeness adorned God’s Throne. Upon seeing his image in the Heavenly sphere Yaakov realizes that God must have important things planned for him. He starts thinking about his unique mission, and what his path towards greatness will entail. It is at this point that Yaakov admits that until now- “Anochi Lo Yadati” - I had never given much thought to Anochi- finding my unique mission and pursuing it.
Anochi means I; and it is the first word of the Ten Commandments. It is used as a reference to the Ultimate I that is Hashem. Anochi Lo Yadati also means that now Yaakov appreciates the importance of God’s presence at every stage of life and in every situation. Until now, Yaakov had been so busy with his own efforts to trick his father, receive the birthright and get out of town that he had forgotten to take a moment to look for and appreciate God’s role in his life.
Let us look to our patriarch Yaakov as a model for how to persevere in the face of challenges: To view every situation as an opportunity to seek out our unique path in life, as well as an opportunity to seek out God along that path.
Let us boldly assert an awareness of Anochi in our lives, and in so doing may we be comforted in knowing (paraphrasing Yaakov) Achein Yesh Hashem Bamakom Hazeh, that God (referred to as Hamakom) is with us at every makom along our journeys.