As Jacob escapes from his brother’s murderous rage, the result of Jacob’s subterfuge and lies, he encounters a place. We are not told where this place is, merely its brute fact. “He encountered a place” somewhere between a murderous brother and a city full of familial lore but which he had not visited: Haran. Jacob is tired.
Our sages imagine that when the Torah goes to the trouble of telling us both that he would stay for the night and that the sun had set, it was because the sun was not supposed to set yet but God caused it to anyway. Like a New England winter day, darkness came all at once and far too early. This was a gift. This was God telling Jacob, “you have come far enough. You are tired. Rest.” Jacob acquiesces, too tired perhaps to register that his head was on a rock and falls asleep. (Would it be that we would listen when our bodies and circumstances gently nudge us to rest, especially in a time of such fretfulness and anxieties.)
It is now that the father of our tradition’s most famous dreamer dreams himself. A ladder to heaven, with angels climbing up and down, shows itself right beside him. God, says the text, stands next to him. Note this: A bridge between our world and the next is erected in our narrative, rarely is the gap illustrated in such a profoundly plain way. But rather than God standing where God might be expected to, on the other side of the breach, above, God is standing beside Jacob.
And so, when the text says Jacob “encountered a place,” it would perhaps be more accurate to say that he crashed into God, exhausted, in need of restorative sleep and renewed dreams.
The theological implications of this moment are vast, and perhaps we will deal with them later, but for now we are with Jacob, in a place that is no-place that is within and beside God, where even a rock can be pillow, where the demons that chase and the promises of somewhere-else tempt, where we can remember to rest. Because we are tired. Because we need to dream.
You have come far enough. Rest.
 Gen. 28:11
 Chullin 91b
 Gen. 28:13