When Jacob left his home he entered into a very difficult valley in his life journey. It was a valley that he did not truly believe that he was worthy enough to come out of.
He was fleeing from his house. He was escaping from a brother who was set on killing him. He was running from a father who may have lost some measure of faith and confidence in his son. He was leaving without knowing when he was to return. And he was leaving into a land of the unknown, and into a future filled with challenges and doubt. He is fatigued and drained and he falls asleep on a rock in the middle of the field.
It is then that G-d reveals to him a powerful image and deeply impacting metaphor;
“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.”
Why was the image of a ladder used for Jacob at this point in his life?
What was it about the image that so empowered Jacob that upon his wakening he declares; ”Surely Hashem is in this place; and I knew it not.”?
What in fact was it that he did not know?
Jacob was travelling into the unknown troubled by a haunting statement spoken to him by his father ;
“Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”( Genesis 27:21-22).
Had he truly become like Esau. Had he lost the spiritual qualities that so endeared him to his mother and were the source of the prophecy given over to her:”Hashem said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”(ibid 25:23).
He was plagued with that gnawing concern of “I am not worthy of the least of all the loving kindnesses, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; ( Genesis 32:10).
Yet it would be that exact emotional and psychological inner struggle that will become the impetus for Jacob’s great strength of balance. His “insecure passion” would be the reason that the people of Israel would spring forth out of Jacob and not earlier from Abraham or Isaac.
Abraham represents unlimited Chessed- Loving-Kindness. His focus was the world. Isaac’s strength was Gevura-Inner strength and his focus was inward meditation, contemplation and growth. Yet Jacob was going to represent something else. He represented the attribute of Tifferet – (Balanced Beauty) or Emet –Truth, that necessitated a blending of those characteristics of his forefathers. It would only be that synthesis that could create a framework for an eternal people.it would be that integration that would enable that eternal people impact all of mankind.
Yet the ability to begin the work of such a synthesis and integration would necessitate a breaking away from the crippling feeling of unworthiness. That was the empowering force of the image of the Heavenly Ladder.
The heavenly ladder imparted two messages. The first message was is that that ladder would always be available; “Surely HaShem is in this place; and I knew it not.” The second is that ascending the ladder would necessitate focusing on one rung at a time;” and this is the gate of heaven.”
Abraham with his universal view saw the holy location as a Har-mountain;
“And Abraham called the name of that place Hashem-Yireh; as it is said to this day: ‘In the mount ( Har) where Hashem is seen.” (Genesis 22:14).
Isaac in his inward contemplation and submission ,saw it as a field: “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming.”.(ibid 24:63).
But Jacob saw it as a house ;“And he was frightened, and he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.”( ibid 28:17).
Jacob in his rung by rung journey integrated the inward passion of Isaac with the universal approach of Abraham and created “a house”. It is that “house” that will bring together and then unite the world;
“And many nations will go and say ‘Let us go and go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the G-d of Yaacov ( Jacob) !” ( Isaiah2 )
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved