Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner, 2022
Copy Right 2022
Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
JUSTICE-2/Jacob’s Ladder Dream
Adding new meaning
When Noah struggled against the rampant BLOODHSED of his generation,
he also added a new aspect to it – cruelty and the evilness of our human heart, something he was extremely worried about.
To enforce Man’s struggle against BLOODHSED,
which is the THIRD Commandment given to Adam in Eden,
Noah entered the Rainbow Covenant, under which we still live.
In it, G-d spells out the Laws of BLOODSHED in details,
something that was missing before Noah,
something that Adam and Eve and Enosh did not know.
In addition to the BLOODSHED Laws,
Noah also received a new Commandment, the Seventh,
one above Adam’s primordial six,
that prohibits the consumption of blood and a limb
torn from an animal while it is still alive.
Clearly, this new Seventh Commandment enforces Man’s struggle
against BLOODSHED, Adam’s THIRD.
It enhances Man’s struggle with the evilness of our own heart.
In the same token, when Abraham fought against THEFT,
which was the major sin of his generation, when Empires
were formed to invade other people’s land and grab manpower
for slavery, meaning ORGANIZED THEFT,
Abraham not only fought against it but also shed a new light on it, something that was unknown to Noah.
In Abraham’s eyes, THEFT is prohibited not only because
it is a law between Man and Man,
or because G-d prohibited it on Adam, as the THIRD Law of Adam,
but also, because THEFT violates G-d’s OWNERSHIP of everything.
This idea was novel, unknown before Abraham.
Abraham farther supported his struggle against THEFT,
by giving G-d a new Name: AaDoNai, My Owner,
who Owns the Heavens and the Earth.
Hence, he said, I can be a slave to no one but to G-d, AaDoNai.
To enforce even farther his posture against THEFT and ABDUCTION,
Abraham received from G-d a new Commandment, Circumcision,
which is the emblem of our Master in our flesh.
In addition, Hahsem changed Abram’s name to Abraham,
enforcing his new stand.
Thus, Abraham’s EIGHTH Commandment, Circumcision,
came to enforce Man’s struggle against Adam’s FOURTH, THEFT,
the same as Noah’s Seventh came to support Adam’s THIRD, BLOODSHED.
Hence we are right to ask,
As Jacob struggles against INJUSTICE and for CIVIL ORDER,
which is Adam’s FIFTH Commandment,
does he also add a new aspect to JUSTICE?0
Does he also get a new name?0
Does he also call G-d by a new Name?0
Does he also receive a new Commandment to enforce his stand?0
Let’s go to the stories of Jacob.
What sort of JUSTICE
Prevailed in Jacob’s Time?0
Last class we learned about the notion of JUSTICE
known in Jacob’s time.
Jacob was born into a world that perceived JUSTICE
as ‘get even,’ take what is yours, even by cheating.
Act like ELKM, measure for measure.
If people cheat you, cheat them back.
If they hurt you, hurt them back.
Acting along those lines, Jacob received his JUSTICE
and became the firstborn son of the family.
But for that, he took advantage of his brother’s hunger,
then he disguised himself as Esau and cheated his father.
So, he received his JUSTICE, but with enormous price,
since the humiliated Esau never consented to Jacob’s actions
and even planned to kill him. He, Esau, was adamant
to stand on the truth as he saw it.
Where there is JUSTICE, there is no peace, the Rabbis observed.
Thus Jacob had to run away for his life.
Now let’s focus on the second episode of Jacob’s life story,
the Ladder Dream.
We see him running away for his life, reaching “The PLACE”,
which is Mount Moriah. The Sun goes down and he feels
desolated, poor and hungry.
Tradition says that he has been robbed earlier on that day
by Esau’s son Elipaz and his gangue.
Hence he had no more resources and no one to turn for help.
At dark, he lies on the bare ground, using hard stones as a cushion.
He remembers Abraham’s taverns, kitchens and hotels
that he built on crossroads for the poor.
How happy he would be, to have such a tavern nearby!
Lying on the bare ground, he could identify with all the poor,
hungry and desolated people in the world,
with all the unfortunate souls whose turbulent life has
thrown them to the ditches, with those who are robbed
and mistreated by family or societ
The Ladder Dream
Then, in his despair, he falls asleep and has a dream,
that would become the most famous dream in history
In it, he sees a ladder, its foot on the ground and its head reaching the sky,
and the Angles of ELKM, mentioned here 5 times,
ascend and descend on it, while YHVH is standing on it, on the Ladder.
Still in the dream, YHVH speaks to Jacob and promises him
to take care of him, guard on his way and bring him back home.
YHVH also promises him that the land on which he is lying,
would belong to him and his children forever,
and that his children would be so numerous that they
would spread to the four corners of the Earth.
Here is the text:
“And he encountered the PLACE and spent the night there
Because the sun had set, and he took from the stones of the PLACE
And arranged them under his head and lay down in that PLACE.
“And he dreamt an behold, a ladder was set on the ground
and its top reaching the sky. And behold, the Angels of ELKM
were ascending and descending on it.
“And behold, YHVH was standing on it, and He said:
I Am YYVH, the G-D of Abraham your father and the G-d of Isaac,
The land upon which you are lying, to you will I give it and to your seed.
Your offspring shall be like the dust of the Earth,
and you shall spread out westward, eastwards, northwards and southwards
and all the families of the Earth shall
bless themselves by you
and by your offspring. Behold, I shall be with you and guard you
Wherever you go, and I shall return you to this land for I shall not forsake you
until I have done what I have spoken about you.
“Jacob awoke from his dream and said:
surely there is YHVH in that PLACE and I did not know!
And he became frightened and said: How awesome is this PLACE
This is none other but the House of ELKM, and this is the Gate of heavens.
“Jacob arose early in the morning and he took the stone
that he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar,
and he put oil on its head and he called the name of that PLACE Beth-El,
however, Loz was the original name of the city….”
The word “The PlLACE” is repeated symmetrically,
3 times before the Ladder and 3 times after the Ladder,
as if it serves a base for the Ladder.
In fact, the term “The PLACE” would become, in the Talmud,
a nickname for the Holy Temple, even for YHVH Herself.
The Dream mentions the Angels of ELKM five times,
ascending and descending on it.
Who are the Angels of ELKM?
There are many interpretations. According to the Book of Zohar,
they represent the Seventy Families of Noah’s Nations,
and the Ladder’s stairs represent Noah’s Commandments.
each stair stands for one Commandment.
The Angels of the Nations ascend and descend on it,
according to how many Commandments their nation observes.
The Angle of Egypt, for instance, stood at the bottom, since
they kept no Commandment. Other nations stood higher.
No one climbed higher than five stairs.
Then, on top pf the Ladder, above the Fifth Commandment,
YHVH was standing and speaking to him.
Here is the structure of the Ladder Dream according to the text;
(V) ELKM’s Angels
(IV) ELKM’s Angels
(III) ELKM’s Angels
(II) ELKM’s Angels
(I) ELKM’s Angels
The PLACE, PLACE, PLACE The PLACE, PLACE
In the dream, YHVH stood “on it,” over and above the Ladder,
over the Fifth Commandment which happens to stand for
JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER.
Thus, in the Dream, YHVH’s MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS stood above the laws of ELKM.
Jacob wakes up and says,
“Surely YHVH is present in this PLACE, and I did not know!
And he became frightened and said,
How Awesome is this PLACE,
his is none other than the House of ELKM,
and this is the Gate of Heavens.”
In the morning he wakes up realizing that his vision was just a dream
perhaps a reflection of what was on his own mind.
He could not trust a dream. He wishes that his dream would come true.
He therefore takes the stone on which he slept
and erects it as a pillar, and pours oil on it,
and he makes a vow, a pledge, so important,
that according to the Rabbis, its structure would become
the prototype for all vows after him.
Let’s pay attention to the structure of his vow.
The Structure of His Vow
If ELKM will be with me
Will guard me on this way that I am going
Will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear,
And I return in peace to my father’s house,
YHVH will be ELKM to me,
and the stone that I have set up as a pillar
shall become a house of ELKM,
and whatever you will give me
I shall repeatedly tithe it to you.
As we see, the vow has two parts:
Part A: contains the petition, or prayer, or the condition
that Jacob hopes to be fulfilled, before his pledge would take effect.
Part B: contains the pledge itself,
expressing what Jacob pledges to do
when his petition is answered.
In part A, Jacob presents his hope
that HaSheM would be with him, guard him, shelter him,
give him bread to eat and cloth to wear,
and return him bacK home in peace
In Part B, the pledge, Jacob expresses what he would do
when his condition is fulfilled. Let’s read part B, the pledge:
YHVH will be my ELKM,
And that stone that I have set up as a pillar
shall be the House of ELKM,
and whatever you will give me
I shall repeatedly tithe for you.”
In the pledge part,
Jacob vows to build a House for G-d
where he would bring offering and donations.
He would offer tangible things,
against tangible things given to him by G-d.
But what about the first line of his pledge where he says:
THEN YHVH WILL BE MY ELKM?
What kind of a pledge is this? Certainly, it does not refer
to tangible, material things.
If you translate that line to English saying:
“And the Lord will be my God,”
you might wonder: Wasn’t the Lord his G-d right then and there?
Was he idolater? (Abrabanel’s question.)
But if you stick to the Hebrew Names and read it as follows:
“Then, the Merciful Attribute YHVH, shall be my JUDGE, ELKM.”
It receives a profound meaning, saying
“Then, I will turn your MERCY, YHVH, into ELKM’s Law.”
Hence, Jacob was saying:
If my dream comes true, and you’ve given me food to eat,
water to drink, room to sleep, as you’ve promised,
and as Abraham did for other people in your name, voluntarily, out of love to you,
then, when I return home in peace,
I shall turn your ways, Abraham’s way, into the Law of my Land.
I shall teach my children to be sensitive to the cry of the poor,
to the desolate and the hungry and the oppressed.
I shall tell my children to treat all people with
YOUR COMPASSION, MERCY and FORGIVENESS
AS THE LAW OF MY LAND.
You can see that on the Ladder Diagram.
It is as if Jacob pledges to draw YHVH down from above the Ladder
into the Fifth stair, adding Her values to the Fifth Law of Adam,
which is JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER.
In other words, Jacob was pledging to introduce
YHVH MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS
into the courts of JUSTICE, into society outside the Court,
into the streets and the markets and the private homes,
achieving SOCIAL JUSTICE like never before
JUSTICE, RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GRACE,
Because of Jacob’s pledge, the Torah contains
Laws of Social JUSTICE that express
YHVH’s presence in the Land of Israel.
These laws are unparalleled in any other system of laws
around the world:
The Torah Law obliges the owner of a field in the land of Israel,
to leave a whole corner of the field with its uncut wheat for the poor.
This law does not depend on the owner’s good heart.
It is the law of the land, enforced by the court.
The Torah Law obliges the owner of a field in the land of Israel
to donate, once every three years, one tenth of the entire crop
to the poor.
This donation does not depend on the owner’s good heart.
It is the law of the land, enforced by the court.
The Torah law obliges the owner of a field in the land of Israel
to abandon, once every seven years, the entire crop for the poor.
Another Torah Law obliges every owner of a slave
not only to treat him fairly and dignity, but to set him free
after six years. It is the law of the Land.
The Torah Law obliges us to return a poor man’s coat
taken as a collateral, to the poor man for the night,
if that is the only way he could stay warm.
No such law exists anywhere.
The Torah Law obliges us to support the poor by
providing him loans on easy term and no interest,
so that he would recover from poverty with dignity.
These and many other such laws,
Establish SOCIAL JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER
as Jacob sees it, introducing YHVH into our society,
standing against taking advantages of the poor and the socially weak.
But as Jacob implies in his vow,
those Laws are so unusual,
that they are effective only inside the Land of Israel,
and only while the Temple stands and the
Shechinah of YHVH Dwells in it.
Once the Temple is destroyed, and the Shechinah has departed,
those “Laws of the Land” become ineffective from the Torah perspectives and remain effective only on rabbinical level,
as a memorial token for the Holy Temple.
Jacob’s pledge to introduce YHVH into our society
applies not only to the fields and the markets
but also to the courts themselves, obliging the judges to entertain
MERCY and COMASSION and FORGIVENSS
in deciding the court’s verdicts.
In Jacob’s view of JUSTICE,
MERCY and FORGIVENESS are not left to “consciousness”
outside the courts, to rare occasions, out of the good hearts,
but rather used as a daily ingredient in the regular court’s decisions,
which is unparalleled in any other system of JUSTICE in the world.
This is why the Talmud refers to the Torah as a MERCIFUL TORAH,
especially when it deals with issues of dignity, pains and suffer
Three Levels In the Torah Laws
the RMBM therefore describes three types of Torah Laws:
JUSTICE- (MISHPAT) – logical laws that are based on simple JUSTICE
of getting even. You must pay back what you owe in fairness and JUSTICE. Those laws are common to all human cultures.
RIGHTEOUSNESS – (ZEDAKA) – Laws of charity that you perform not because of your good heart, but rather because the Torah is telling you to perform them. These laws are not logical, and are the result of Jacob’s pledge to introduce YHVH values into the Law of the Land.
GRACE – (CHESSED) – are acts of kindness and charity that one may perform even above what the Torah obliges us to do. These acts cannot be expressed by written laws and are not confined to the law. They express the person’s connection to YHVH.
What about cheating back?0
Moreover, Jacob’s pledge to bring YHVH into our society
would also affect the way he would achieve JUSTICE.
Once the pledge become effective, Jacob would never again
seek JUSTICE by cheating back.
He would never again try to circumvent his rivals.
Instead, he would encounter them face to face,
trying to achieve both JUSTICE and peace.
Cheating, after all, is the art of the Serpent in Eden,
which YHVH despises the most.
So, when he encounters Esau’s Angel on his way back home,
Jacob does not circumvent it but rather wrestle with it
FACE TO FACE through the night.
Each side threw at the other its accusations and grievances,
and Jacob even suffered a dislocated hip,
because the Angel of Esau had solid accusations
against him, against Jacob.
Esau too had many merits of his own, like
honoring his parents and taking care of them at old age
while Jacob was out.
But in the end, Jacob won
and his name was changed forever to Israel,
which means “struggle with El directly.”
A New Name and a New Commandment
In addition, Jacob’s children took upon themselves
a new Commandment, the Ninth, the prohibition to eat the
sciatic nerve, to commemorate his stand for JUSTICE.
Hence commandment number nine of Social JUSTICE
Supports Adam’s FIFTH Commandment JUSTICE given in Eden.
Thus, like Noah and Abraham,
Jacob not only fought for JUSTICE
but also added a new shed on it,
supported by a new Commandment,
and getting a new name: Israel.
In addition, Jacob called G-d by a new name: El the G-d of Israel.
Laws of JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER
The RaMBaN writes, inn connection to the story of the city of Shchem,
that It is incumbent on all the Children of Noah
to become familiar with the CIVIL LAWS of JUSTICE
in the Talmud, and adapt them for themselves.
This is, indeed, the base of the idea,
proposed by the late Lubavitch Rabbi,
to establish a Yeshiva of Bnei Noah where all people
learn the Civil Laws from the Talmud,
in addition to the Seven Commandments of Noah
(and the Parsha of Bilaam.)
A note: In Kabbalah, the unity of YHVH and ELKM to form a KING is called Yakov, Jacob. Now you know why.