Since Yaakov Avinu witnessed the angels going up and down a ladder, it seems an appropriate week to discuss halachos germane to ladders. To begin, let us analyze a passage of Gemara that discusses ladders.
Last week we looked into the dangers of Jews becoming overly socially connected to the members of other nations. The issue comes to the fore again in this week’s parasha. After the confrontation and conciliation between Yaakov and Lavan, a feast took place between the two sides. The Torah tells us that Yaakov “called to his brothers to eat bread,” which they did before retiring on the mountain (Bereishit 31:54). The question that the Rabbis ask is: who were these brothers of Yaakov? Different answers are presented.
The Torah tells us that Yaakov spent a momentous night in the makom (place) (Bereishit 28:11). A few years ago, we explained that this word, especially when it also appears with the word shem (name), refers to a Divine Presence at the place. So what special place was it at which Yaakov had his dream and revelation?
Yaakov had two preparations for his life with Lavan – 14 years of study in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, and the dream of the ladder. These helped him survive the period successfully. Although Yaakov already obtained the berachot that ensured his ultimate success, including financially, he was not satisfied. After all, fortune can cause its owner’s downfall (Kohelet 5:12). For a meaningful life of activity, he needed to be a talmid chacham, who could study in his free time in a significant way. He entered a life of intensive study in the ancient yeshiva. The beracha Yaakov received from his father was literally, “from the dew of the heaven and the fats of the land, and a multitude of grain and wine.” However, he understood it like the midrash – referring, respectively, to Tanach, Mishna, Talmud, and aggada (Bereishit Rabba 66:3). When Yaakov put in long hours on Lavan’s flock (see Bereishit 31:40), he contemplated Torah ideas while at work.