Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and went toward Haran:
He encountered the place and spent the night there because the
sun had set; he took from the stones of the place which he
arranged around his head, and lay down in that place:
And he dreamt, and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its
top reached heavenward; and behold! angels of God were going
up and coming down, against him:
And behold! God was standing over him, and He said, "I am
God, the God of Abraham your father and God of Isaac; the
ground upon which you are lying, to you will I give it and to
Your offspring shall be as the dust of the earth, and you
shall spread out powerfully westward, eastward, northward and
southward; and all the families of the earth shall bless
themselves by you and by your offspring:
aside, one of the common points that draws discussion can be
found in pasuk yud-bet (12) wherein it says, "angels of
God were ascending and descending on it."
The reason this draws discussion is that the word
ascending comes before descending.
In other words, how is it that angels were going from
the earth to heaven rather than the other way around?
As it happens, Rav Hirsch makes a point on this as
ladder was shown him (Yaakov [Jacob]), so there was a means of
communication upwards from the earth, and it is placed there,
did not come there by itself, nor just by chance, it had been
placed there by a Higher power, and indeed, to the earth, the
power and the will that set it was not to be looked for on
earth, but above, it is set from the height above down to the
earth, nevertheless its purpose is primarily not only from
heaven to earth, but to go up from earth to heaven.
Such was the first trend of thought which was shown to
him so that, first of all, in general, that the whole life on
earth, including accordingly, human life, his own life also,
has its goal, not in the plains - not from Beer-Sheva to Haran
- but in the heights, and set from the heights; that
everything earthly is invited from above to work itself
upwards to a heavenly high goal; that this goal and this
striving upwards to it is no fairy tale invented by Man, no
erroneous theory originating on earth, but is a most
substantial reality established from heaven itself.
It is suggested that "wide beyond the whole world
does the ladder reach, and its lowest rung can be mounted
everywhere on earth.
is a second set of ideas.
Jacob sees angels of God, God's messengers, beings on
earth who are called, by God's command to be active in the
life on earth, sees them going up, coming down, going up to
get the directions for their work, and coming down against
him (which is the way one authority takes the meaning of the
word literally to be, which opinion seems to us to be
justified by the following explanation).
He sees that the fate of men is not made on earth by
the material world. He sees messengers of God, and notices that these messengers
of God go up the ladder to get a picture of the ideal
humanity, how human beings really should be, and then come
down and compare what they find here below, with that picture
to decide, according to that standard, whether to behave in a
friendly assisting manner towards any particular member of
mankind, or in very much the reverse way.
And so - to quote the words of our sages in [the
Talmudic Tractate] Chulin 91b - "up above they found his
picture engraved on Israel glorifying God, they came down and
found him asleep," - sleeping at the very place which
should have awakened in his mind the thoughts of his glorious
mission, which thoughts would surely have kept him excitedly
awake - so that on that account "they intended to
endanger his life."
However, God intercedes…
continuing with the commentary around pasuk yud-gimel (13), it
seems appropriate to point out that this particular spot is
unique in many ways. This
is the spot on which the Akeidah (the near sacrifice of
Yitzchak) occurred and it is the spot which would later be
occupied by the Beit HaMikdash - the Holy Temple.
Because of the commentary concerning the ladder and
other points in the Tanach, this is the reason that we believe
that, although only a part of the Temple remains today, the
entire structure is intact in the spiritual sense still.
to the words "God stood beside him," this is usually
taken to mean: stood
on it, on the ladder, and that gives a lovely dramatic
picture, the sleeping Jacob at the foot of the ladder, the
ascending and descending angels, and the Glory of God high up
above the ladder. But
somebody stands, but the one on which his mind, his attention
is fixed. The Hebrew clearly designates standing next to something
giving all one's attention to it.
The word itself does not mean simply standing, but
standing somewhere with forces alert and ready for action.
Further, the Name of God here seems to be in contrast
to the angels. The angels are messengers of God, that he has created and
keeps for the laws of nature of the world in which everything
is measured and weighed in accordance with what is right and
correct. To them
everything and everybody is only what it represents at that
moment. But it is
God Who stands by him, the God of Love, who does not have only
the past and the present before His eyes, but Who also sees
and arranges the future, and Who recognizes in every present
person, the future person, and if He sees any seedling, any
spark of purity, keeps and fans and develops that seed.
become quite lengthy and I will do my best to wrap things up.
There is a point that is made at the very end of pasuk
yud-daled (14) which is "and all the families of the
earth shall bless themselves by you and by your
. . through thee all the families of the world shall be
blessed, and through they seed."
Quite definitely the blessing that is to emanate from
him, appears here to be a double one.
Altogether, one man and one nation can be a source of
blessing for the whole human race only by spiritual influence,
and the example of the development of a model exemplary mode
of life, until the time comes when the prophecy will be
fulfilled that "in those days, that, when ten men from
every language of the nations will seek security, they will
catch hold of the garment of a Jewish man and say:
we would go with you, for we have heard that God is
with you." (Zechariah
8:23). That is
the blessing that Jacob, as pater familias, and his seed as a
nation, are to be to the world.
Jacob demonstrates the first Jewish house, and teaches
how, without any inherited fortune, simply by the blessing and
dignity of work, one can build up, and live through a family
life with all its drudgery, worries and griefs, and still have
God in one's life. Accordingly,
it is family and national life, borne purely and entirely by
the grace of God, and lived in accordance with the Divine
Will, which mankind is to learn from you and from your seed.
In other words, through this single pasuk, we see not only a road map of how our lives can be their best but how, through our own behavior, Klal Yisrael can make the entire world a better place to live.