Parasha Inspiration – Vayetzei

וַיַּֽחֲלֹ֗ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה סֻלָּם֙ מֻצָּ֣ב אַ֔רְצָה וְרֹאשׁ֖וֹ מַגִּ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וְהִנֵּה֙ מַלְאֲכֵ֣י אֱלֹהִ֔ים עֹלִ֥ים וְיֹֽרְדִ֖ים בּֽוֹ: וְהִנֵּ֨ה יְהֹוָ֜ה נִצָּ֣ב עָלָיו֘ וַיֹּאמַר֒ אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֗ה אֱלֹהֵי֙ אַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔יךָ וֵֽאלֹהֵ֖י יִצְחָ֑ק הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ שֹׁכֵ֣ב עָלֶ֔יהָ לְךָ֥ אֶתְּנֶ֖נָּה וּלְזַרְעֶֽךָ:

And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder extended toward the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed.

Genesis 28:12-13

This week’s portion contains a very well-known story, the story of Jacob’s ladder. The sulam, meaning ladder or staircase in Hebrew, extends toward the earth and toward the heavens. It is important to the perspective of the story. The staircase does not originate on earth and extend upward. The perspective of the narration is not from the earth, but rather from the middle of the staircase. The Hebrew does this clearly from the use of the term ארצה, which is specifically toward the earth. So, Jacob, in his dream, is seeing this vision from beyond time and space. Understanding that this is viewed from a perspective beyond time and space is crucial in comprehending the importance of the vision.

Jacob sees, from beyond time and space, messengers of Hashem ascending and descending on a staircase. Beyond time and space, what does “ascending and descending” mean? This is not a story of angels moving. Motion requires both time and space. So if Jacob is not talking about motion, what is he trying to convey about the messengers of Hashem in his dream?

There are multiple heavens. Paul makes reference to this concept. Since Jacob is not talking about motion in history, he must be talking about communication between the different heavens and the earth. Hashem’s messengers convey messages between the different heavens and also the earth.

John 1:51 tells us “Then he said to him, “Yes indeed! I tell you that you will see heaven opened and the angels of God going up and coming down on the Son of Man!”” Obviously, Yeshua’s point here is not that he is a staircase, rather, Yeshua is the mechanism of communication between the different heavens and the earth. Yeshua the Messiah is much more than a person on the earth. He is the structure upon which the heavens and the earth rely for their very existence. Without Yeshua, there is no indication between the different heavens and the earth. Existence depends on the Mashiakh. Shabbat shalom.


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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.