Parashas Vayeitsei 5780 – The Ladder to success

The immediate repercussions of Yaakov’s receiving his father’s Divine blessing is tragic. Yaakov is forced to flee the land of Israel and take refuge from his brother Esav murderous rage. Our Parasha opens with a description of Yaakov on his journey/escape to Charan. “Yaakov left Beer-Sheba and set out for Charan. He came upon the certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream; a ladder was set on the earth and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. And the Lord was standing beside him and He said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” There are a few difficulties arising from these verses; 1) Yaakov just received the Divine blessing that’s supposed to provide him powers over Esav, but instead he’s forced to run away. 2) Hashem appears on top of a ladder informing Yaakov He is Hashem the God of Avraham his father and the God of Yitschak; Why the necessity to appear on the Ladder and why is Avraham titled as his father whilst Yitschack is not, when in reality Yitschak was his father and Avraham his grandfather. 3) Hashem promises Yaakov to protect him until his safe return, why is he then making a conditional vow, “If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father’s house—the LORD shall be my God.” But Hashem already promised him these very points. 4) Why would Hashem leave him after his safe return? Hashem never leaves any of us, especially if they are righteous li Yaakov.
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Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer [35:6] explains: Hashem used the Ladder to show Yaakov the four kingdoms that will rule over the Bnei Yisrael in the future, and their destruction. The kingdom of Babylon ascending seventy rungs, then descending; The kingdom Media [Persia] ascending fifty-two rungs then descending; The kingdom of Greece ascending 180 rungs then descending; and the kingdom of Edom ascending, but he was not descending, and was saying, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14). Yaakov replied to him: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit” (Isa. 14:15). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Even “though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle” (Jer. 49:16). The dream was indeed a response to Yaakov wondering, how is it that the blessing of the Tsadik is not accomplished. In fact, just the opposite happened. Hashem showed Yaakov the ways of heaven, which are not compatible with human logic. We translate everything as being a cause to effect. Heaven though works in circles. A miscreant that deserves to be punished must fall from a certain height in order for the fall to be at the level of his bad deeds. Therefore, Hashem raises him and provides him first success until he reaches the level he must fall from. Therefore, Yaakov saw the first three kingdom ascending then descending. As for Esav’s kingdom he only saw him ascending, just as now he must escape despite receiving the Divine blessings. Though, for even you see him ascending unto My throne as though that were possible, I will cast him down, as is said: Though thou wert to rise as high as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord (Ovadia 4). Hashem then said to him: Fear thou not, O Yaakov, My servant; neither be dismayed, O Israel (Jer. 30:10). The Zohar explains: Hashem tells Yaakov, despite that the situation seems as bad as possible; you’re running away from your brother, he sent his son Elifaz to kill you, and you barely escaped death by giving him all your possessions, don’t think the Tsadik’s blessing is not potent. All this was My will, so you end up here in order to receive for you and your children the keys to heaven and a profound message!
Hashem message resonates very clearly, the powers of the Blessings are not a physical strength but a metaphysical one. Am Israel’s strength being in the mouth, as Yitschak stated in last Parasha, “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are those of Esav”, meaning that Yaakov’s power is in his mouth, whilst Esav’s is in his hands.
Rav Levi Yitschak of Barditchev explains: Hashem created the speech faculty so Man can pray to Hashem and then will receive his request. But creatures that are incapable to
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speak or are not intelligible, Hashem will dispense his largesse without being asked for it. Though, Yaakov who just lived pretty desperate situations had erred by not praying to Hashem for His help. Therefore, Hashem showed him that dream so he’ll start praying for his descendants and will then also pray for himself.
The Gemara Brachos [17b] explains the Pasuk: “Listen to Me, you who have lost heart, who are far from righteousness.” [Isaiah 46,12], that some people are granted their livelihood because they use their intelligence to ask Hashem for it. Others believe in their own strength, their ability to work for a living, and secure it through this means. People who are devoid of intelligence will be provided for by Hashem, as they are too dim witted or physically unable look out for themselves. But Hashem will abandon those who think they can succeed on their own. This is the meaning of the Verse, “Hashem looks after the fools” (psalms 116,6).
The best Example is mentioned in Tehilim [147,9] “He gives the beasts their food, to the raven’s brood what they cry for.” Chazal inform us, that the raven is the only bird that shows no mercy for its chicks and does not feed them. Therefore, Hashem makes a miracle, their nest is constantly infested with flying bugs, so they can eat them. Even more so when a man beseech Hashem for his sustenance, that it will be provided. Yaakov having learned with Avraham should’ve emulated his grandfather’s power to pray. That’s why the Pasuk titles Avraham as his father, as he’s the one who taught him Torah.
The Tur instructs; that this message is hinted in the fact that “Sulam” [ סֻ לֻם as written in the Torah, without Vav] its numerical value is 130, just as “Sinai” [ סֻי נֻי ], where the Torah was given. Since, the Torah itself is our bridge between Heaven and Earth. Most of us will never experience prophecy of the level of Yaakov and thus we need the Torah to enable us to make the spiritual connection in our lives. Our relationship with the All Mighty is up to us to procure and develop.
We can add, that on Yom Kippur we say that “Tshuva, Tefila and Tsedaka erase bad decrees”, Chazal translate it as “Fasting, Voice and Money have the power to erase any decree. Fast in Hebrew is צֻם =130; Voice is קל =130; Money is מֻ מֻן =130. This are the means the Divine blessing provided us, the opportunity to use the keys to Heaven! Therefore, despite Hashem promising Yaakov to be with him during the entire journey, Yaakov decided to pray for it anyway, since this is what Hashem was seeking from him.

By Rabbi Shimon Friedman – Din Torah Of NMB, FL 305.399.0393 / [email protected]

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