Stairway to Heaven




It is in the beginning of Parashat Vayesse that Yaaqob finally receives his first prophecy. The contents of this dream/vision are well-known, but the pessuqim that come before it, and their meaning in terms of the prophecy, are less clear.

The opening pessuqim of Veyesse go painstakingly out of their way to paint the picture of a very active Yaaqob.

            "And Yaaqob left Be'er Sheba and he travelled to Haran. And he arrived at the place,             and he laid there because the sun had set, and he took from the stones of the place                       and he placed them under his head, and he slept there. And he dreamt and                behold there was a ladder standing on the ground and it's top reached the heavens, and behold there were angels of God ascending and descending upon it." (Bereshit 28; 10-12)

No other Parasha in the Torah even comes close to opening with as many verbs to describe one person's actions (8 out of the first 22 words are verbs). What's fascinating is that every first of the pairs of verbs is completely superfluous. In each instance, had the Torah just used the second verb, the first would've been understood implicitly. For example, had the Torah described Yaaqob on his way to Haran I would've known that he left from Be'er Sheba. The same is true of the verbs: arriving and lying down, taking and placing, sleeping and dreaming.


I believe the verbose description of Yaaqob's actions, as well as their seeming redundancy, serve as the perfect preamble to the prophecy that directly follows. This preamble is the Torah's subtle intimation to the fact that no matter what Yaaqob did, no matter how mundane or ordinary an action he took, it had a much deeper meaning beyond the surface. Yaaqob's actions are being presented to us as taking place in two spheres: what he did, and the meaning therein.

This introduction is the perfect lead into Yaaqob's first prophecy. On a fundamental level, when Yaaqob saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder, he saw, he understood, that the earth and heavens are connected. Yaaqob now understands that there is a level of interaction between the land he is asleep on and the sky he is looking up to. The land is not some isolated plane that is devoid of any connection with the Holy, and the Heaven not a conceptual world that belongs to God alone. The two realms are deeply connected and interrelated.This experience instilled in him a deep appreciation for the earthly world, a desire to be an active participant in the here-and-now, and, at the same time, a commitment to the grand perspective and a love for the world of the Divine.

This explains why right when Yaaqob wakes up, he takes immediate action to sanctify the physical objects around him, the place he slept, and the possessions he receives.

"...and he took the stone he had placed under his head and placed it as a monument..." (28; 18)

"and he called the place the house of God..." (28; 19)

"and he made a vow saying... everything I am given I will surely tithe" (28; 22)

What Yaaqob now understands is that we can infuse our actions with meaning because our actions in this world are not isolated from the higher world, the world of meaning. By sanctifying the world we live in, we can break out of the confines of our local lives and kiss the heavens. We, as human beings, have the ability to fuse the earthly and heavenly, and when that happens, we will have transformed our world, and most importantly, ourselves.