This week’s Parsha, Vayetzei, finds Yakov fleeing to Charan to escape the wrath of Esav. Yakov camps and sleeps, dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending to/from G-d. When Yakov wakes up, he exclaims that G-d is present and that he did not know (28:16). The phrase he uses is “lo yad’ati,” which means “I did not know,” but Yakov precedes it with the word “va’anochi,” which also means “I.” If you put it all together, it seems that Yakov says, “I, I did not know.” Why did Yakov choose such strange wording?
Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz suggests a beautiful twist on this expression. He explains that Yakov was able to know that G-d was there by “not knowing the anochi,” or by subjugating the “I.” Yakov was able to know that G-d was there when he moved beyond the “I” of his ego. We see this hinted in the very next Passuk (verse) when Yakov further proclaims that the place where he stands is awesome and that “this is none other than the house of G-d,” once again highlighting that G-d exists where there is “none” – a submission of ego. We become truly transcendent when we stop thinking of ourselves and experience the world through selfless eyes.