Passuk Tes-Zayin: “And Yaakov woke up from his sleep and said surely there is Hashem [G-d] in this place and I did not know.”
RASHI: I did not know – for if I had known I would not have slept here.
The Meforshim [commentators] have a problem with Yaakov’s comment – what does he mean expressing surprise that Hashem is in this place when we teach even little preschoolers, “Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere.” What was the chiddush [new insight] in saying “surely there is G-d in this place”. The answer is that in certain places we need to prepare ourselves to become closer to Hashem, and certain places, such as the land of Eretz Yisroel, helps us become closer even without our preparation. “Aveer D’Eretz Yisroel Machkim” –the air in the land of Israel makes you smarter, makes you more spiritual.
And that is why Yaakov regretted going to sleep. If we can get Nevuah [prophecy] through preparing ourselves, we get a limited Nevuah. If we get Nevuah just by being in a place that gives us Nevuah, that too is limited. But if we prepare ourselves and go to a place where spirituality is more in effect, then our chance at spirituality is magnified greatly. So Yaakov thinks, had I but known and done the prep work for the Nevuah I would get, could you imagine how profound a spiritual experience that would be, because I would be prepared for it in a place that was amazing for it.
Let us give you a musical example to understand it clearly. There is someone who has a great voice. There is a performance hall that has great acoustics. When the voice and the hall is pulled together, ah, that is then a real treat to hear. If you can get a spiritual high from being in a holy place that is great. If you get a spiritual high from doing introspective preparations and work, that is great. Can you imagine combining those two spiritual highs together. That is what Yaakov was saying, he was saying, had I known I’d get a spiritual high from this place (from the so-to-speak acoustics), I would have put in the spiritual effort to get a really spectacular spiritual awakening.
Rabbi Samson Refoel Hirsch says that actually Yaakov was commenting about something else – he was saying that the new thing he learned about his relationship with Hashem is that he did not know that Hashem is with a person even when a person does mundane actions. When a person does even seemingly simple day-to-day tasks of living with the right intentions, G-d is in that moment. Even when we sleep, if we sleep to wake up energized to do the right thing, as did Yaakov, there is that concept that within that act of going to sleep “Hashem is in this place”.
Passuk Yud Zayin: “And he was afraid and said, how awesome is this place, this is nothing other than the house of Elokim and the gate to Heaven”
Rashi: discusses what place this was (what city was he actually sleeping in) and how it was possible that Yaakov was in the place of the Bais Hamikdash. Yaakov had realized he wanted to go to where his father and grandfather had davened, so he was traveling back towards Har Hamoriah. He got as far as Luz, and then Hashem moved Yerushalayim towards him so that he “met” up with the place, as it says in Passuk Yud Alef.
RASHI; how awesome –this word was translated by Onkelos into a form of “understanding” that when we grasp and understand the greatness of Hashem, that is what gives us the awe we need to have. We have an obligation to “dah es Hashem” to know Hashem, because when we get to a point of knowing, that is what gives us Yiras Shamayim.