HaMaqom is an English transliteration of a Hebrew word that directly translates as ‘The Place.’ In the Jewish wisdom tradition, HaMaqom | The Place usually refers either to certain places where the divine is encountered or to the divine Itself.
When the patriarch Jacob sees a vision of angels and is called into the covenant by YHWH, he declares: “How awesome is this place (HaMaqom ha-zeh)!” (Gen. 28:17). Here HaMaqom | The Place is the Axis Mundi, as the great historian of religion Mircea Eliade termed it – the meeting point of heaven and earth.
As a divine name, HaMaqom | The Place is better translated as Omnipresent, or That Which Is Present In All. In the words of contemporary Jewish mystic Arthur Green, “There is only One… That One embraces, surrounds and fills all the infinitely varied forms that existence has taken and ever will take” (Judaism for the World, 3).
The apparent conflict between these two meanings of HaMaqom is hard to miss: does ‘The Place’ refers to specific places where the divine is encountered, or does it point to the presence of the divine in every place?
These and other questions related to the meaning of HaMaqom | The Place in the Jewish wisdom tradition and beyond will guide our discussions in this course.