Friday, December 09, 2005


Reaching for Heaven

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

A third of man's life is devoted to dreaming. Thus, a man in his sixties has already dreamt for twenty years. How unique can one dream be?

And Ya'akov went out from Beer Sheva, and went toward Haran. And he lighted on a certain place and tarried there all night because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place and put them under his head. And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of G-d ascending and descending on it. And behold the Lord stood above it and said 'I am the Lord G-d of Avraham thy father and the G-d of Yitzhak. the land on which thou liest to thee I will give it, and to thy seed ... (Genesis 28:10-12)

Over the years, hundreds of interpretations have been given to Ya'acov's dream. The Midrash says that in Gematria the word "Ladder" (Sulam) equals 130 as the word "Sinai" (B'reshit Rabba 68,13). By showing him a ladder in his dream, G-d hinted "If your descendents keep the Torah, then they will ascend in the same way that the angels ascended, but if they desert the Torah, then they will descend in the way that the angels descended".

However, this dream has additional repercussions. It is possible that the ladder is Ya'acov himself and the angels that ascend and descend represent Ya'acov's entry into maturity. Until this point, our father Ya'acov has been shown as an adolescent seeking his identity. Sometimes he appears as young, lacking experience and hesitant while at other times he appears as brave and enterprising.

After the dream, Ya'acov takes a vow saying "If G-d will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my G-d..."
(Genesis 28:20-1)

Until now, Ya'acov has shown himself to be cunning and exploitative. He knew how to obtain his brother's birthright, he also attained his father's blessing by unfair means, and it seems that he thought that he could exploit G-d as well. Ya'acov's vow is a kind of provocation: "Lord of the world...if you protect me, then you'll gain my belief". However, Ya'acov understands very quickly that there is a lot more to learn. He comes to know his uncle Lavan who is in a totally "different league" of exploiters. Lavan "pulls the wool over his eyes" intentionally and gives him his older daughter (Leah) instead of Rachel whom Ya'acov loves.

Who knows, perhaps this is the turning point in Ya'acov's life. Ya'acov discovers the taste of integrity and decency, establishes a family and his economic status. Ya'acov begins to ascend the rungs of the ladder and understands that cunning may very well come back as a boomerang, blow for blow. After twenty years, Ya'acov faces up to his father-in-law and announces his intention to return to the Land of Ca'anan.

The foot of the ladder was on the earth and the top reached the heavens. G-d was stationed on it and waited for him...He expected Ya'acov to ascend, the completion of the process of maturing.

One third of man's life is devoted to dreaming. Come let us use the remaining two thirds so that we may ascend the ladder of our lives.