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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayetze

Parashat Vayetze

The Ladder

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Many years ago, I heard Elie Wiesel give an interesting interpretation of Yaacov's dream. Mr. Wiesel said at the time that he had heard it in his youth from a chasidic rebbe. When you walk down the street and see a ladder leaning against the front of a house, you assume that the house is being painted or repaired or perhaps some building is going on. When weeks or months go by, and the ladder is still there, the neighbors get upset. The ladder is an eyesore. They urge the owner of the house to get rid of it.

Yaacov was leaving Eretz Yisrael. He was going into Galut. Before leaving Israel, he was shown a ladder to symbolize the fate of the Jew in the Diaspora. Throughout the history of our Galut, Jews were welcomed into societies when they needed our talents. When an economy needed building up, when trade and commerce were faltering, the Jew was invited to come and build or repair. However, once the job was done, like the ladder, the Jew was an eyesore to be removed from view.

The angels ascending and descending represent the status of the Jew, initially ascending but, ultimately descending. Yaacov was being cautioned that Galut is always temporary and precarious. Only in our own land can we stop being a ladder to be used and then cast away. Only here can we build for ourselves and our future.

Rabbi Yosef Wolicki made Aliya in 1986 after twenty-five years in the rabbinate in North America. He recently retired after fourteen years as the rabbi of The New Synagogue of Netanya. He lives in Bet Shemesh and lectures at the Israel Center.

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