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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayetze

LUZ, LADDERS & LIFE’S JOURNEY

Rabbi Stewart WeissKIslev 8 5779
35
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Our beloved Torah is rich in imagery, yet never more so than in the famous dream of Yakov’s Ladder. What a marvelous, visual metaphor this is - the angels going up & down as Hashem blesses Yakov on his journey. Yet numerous questions abound:

Why do the angels first ascend, then descend? It should be the opposite: Angels come from Heaven; they should come down & THEN go up! Why does the Pasuk begin: "Vayifga Bamakom;" (and he encountered the place)? Vayifga" is an unusual, negative term (as in the word "nifga," wounded). And why does G-d identify Himself as "Elokei Avraham Avicha," the G-d of Avraham your father; wasn’t Yitzchak Yakov’s father, & not Avraham?!

To answer, let us try to understand what Yakov is feeling as he lies down to sleep in Luz. Dreams reflect what our soul is saying, the things that deeply concern us, & this why Yakov dreams this particular dream. Here he is, the man who just was blessed as the next leader of Am Yisrael, now fleeing his home, fleeing his homeland, leaving Eretz Yisrael! He is severely, spiritually wounded (nifga) by the fact that he is headed into Galut, an alien, unknown environment filled with shady, Lavan-type characters. He is overwhelmingly depressed.

But then Yakov sleeps & dreams. He sees a ladder "mutzav artza" - rooted in the land, Eretz Yisrael. He is reminded that his roots will always be in Israel. He sees the angels of Eretz Yisrael first, the primary, ascendant angels, to remind him that he must always aspire to return to Israel someday. But he also sees angels descending, angels of Chutz L’Aretz, reassuring him that he will never be abandoned by Hashem, no matter where he goes, so long as he remembers to someday return!

G-d blesses him as "the G-d of Avraham your father." Avraham, not Yitzchak, because Yitzchak never left Israel; Avraham, who did go into Galut, is his true role model. Avraham left, but he also returned. Hashem tells Yakov that he, too, will leave but come back ("I shall return you to this Land"). This is why Yakov’s final act is to make Yosef swear unconditionally that he will return him to Eretz Yisrael & not leave him behind in Egypt.

Yakov makes a solemn pledge to return to Israel & consecrates this holy spot. He renames the place, once called Luz, "Bet El," the House of G-d, affirming that while G-d is everywhere, His primary home is in Eretz Yisrael. As long as Yakov remembers his roots, remembers Israel, he will remain a faithful member of the House of G-d, & will never be a "Luz-er." And that’s no dream.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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