Parshas Vayeitze begins with Yaakov leaving home, on his way to Charan
to seek a suitable mate, at the behest of his parents. On his way, he
encounters a place, and lays down to sleep.
And he dreamt, and behold, a ladder was standing on the ground, and its
top reached heaven - angels of G-d were going up and down on it.
During his dream, Hashem appears to Yaakov in a vision. Although
Yaakov is presently fleeing his brother, Eisav, and things seem bleak,
Hashem promises him that great things are to come:
The ground upon which you lie, I will give it to you and your
Your offspring shall be [plentiful] as the dust of the earth. You will
out powerfully... All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by
you and your offspring... (28:13-14)
Upon awakening from his vision, Yaakov's reaction is noteworthy:
Yaakov awoke from his sleep. He said, "Indeed, Hashem is in this place,
yet I did not know!" He was frightened, and said, "How awesome is this
place! This is none other than the dwelling place of G-d - it is the gate
to heaven!" (28:16-17)
On Yaakov's remark, "Indeed, Hashem is in this place, yet I didn't know,"
If I had known, I would not have layed down to rest in such a holy place!
How different, says the Shai La-Torah, is the reaction of a tzaddik than
our reaction might have been! Imagine you're learning late one night in
beis ha-midrash. You're the only one left, and you're really tired and feel
like going home, but your love and dedication for the Torah pushes you
to stay on for another half hour. Alas, in the middle of learning, you are
overcome by fatigue; you lose your struggle to keep your eyes open, and
your head slowly comes to rest atop your open Gemara. In your
slumber, Hashem appears to you in a vision. "Because you have shown
such tremendous dedication to and love for My Torah," He says, "you
are destined to become a great and revered scholar. From all over the
world, people will seek your advice and take advantage of your almost
endless knowledge. Your children will become great scholars and
rabbanim in their communities... "
Suddenly you awaken. It is clear to you that this lucid vision was no
simple dream. When you arrive home, your wife asks you how your
learning went. You feel humbly obligated to tell her of your vision. She
is elated - her joy at being the subject of such meaningful blessings knows
no end. What person would not pray all their lives for such a promise!
"You know," you tell her, "I feel really bad about falling asleep on top of
a Gemara - especially in the middle of the holy beis ha-midrash! I never do
that. If I would have realized I couldn't have stayed awake, I would have
come home a half hour earlier!"
Absurd? To us it certainly seems so. Wasn't it bashert (destined)? Doesn't
the value of such a dream and its promises overweigh the "minor"
impropriety of having fallen asleep? From Yaakov we see that a truly G-
d-fearing person is more concerned with his own actions than he is
about lofty assurances and promises of grandeur - even such noble ones
as Yaakov received. "Indeed, Hashem is in this place, yet I did not
for had I known, I would not have layed down to rest, even if it meant
forfeiting everything I've just been told.
On Yaakov's remark, "This is the gate to heaven," Rashi notes that from
here we see that the Beis Ha-mikdash shel ma'alah (Holy Temple on
High) is parallel to the Beis Ha-mikdash shel matah (earthly Temple). Our
Sages teach that there exists in heaven a spiritual Temple. When we
serve Hashem in our Temple, corresponding services are performed in
the Heavenly Temple. Thus, in some sense, the two Temples are
physically "parallel" to each other.
Rashi makes an almost identical comment on the words (found in the
Song of the Red Sea):
You will bring them, and plant them on the mount of Your heritage; the
place You dwell in, You have made it, Hashem. (Shemos/Exodus 15:17)
Rashi writes: The place You dwell in - refers to the earthly Beis Ha-
mikdash. You have made it, Hashem - refers to the Beis Ha-mikdash shel
ma'alah. This teaches us, he says, that the earthly Beis Ha-mikdash is
parallel to the Heavenly Beis Ha-mikdash. Almost identical. Except that in
our parsha, Rashi writes that the Heavenly one corresponds to the
physical one, while in the Song Rashi writes that the earthly one
corresponds to the spiritual one!
Chazal say, says the Belzer Rebbe zt"l, that when we are in exile, Hashem
too (to the extent we can express it) goes into exile with us (Ta'anis
16a). Yaakov is on his way out of Israel. He is going to spend the next
20 years of his life separated from his family, and from his Land, in the
surroundings of Lavan. Hashem uproots the Beis Ha-mikdash shel ma'alah
and brings it to where Yaakov sleeps. He is giving Yaakov a message:
Wherever you go - I will follow. In the Song, Hashem speaks of bringing
His nation into the Land, and building a Beis Ha-mikdash in its proper
place. There, when things are where they should be, Rashi writes that
the Beis Ha-mikdash shel matah will be built on the place which
corresponds to the proper location of the Beis Ha-mikdash above.
While we may never merit the dreams of Yaakov Avinu, when a Jew
reminds himself that Hashem accompanies him throughout all his exiles,
both physical and emotional, he may find himself humbled by the
thought, and become more acutely aware of the magnitude of his
responsibilities, and the impart of his actions. Having the
us around," after all, is both an honour, and a tremendous responsibility.