JUSTICE-5/Jacob’s Ladder Dream


© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner



The story we are about to study, Jacob’s Ladder-dream, is one of the most known stories of the Bible. It has numerous interpretations.  Here in our class we’ll follow many classical commentaries, mainly the Book of Zohar. Let’s follow the Torah’s narrative:


2: Jacob prayed in The Place

Following his mother Rebeca’s advice, Jacob escaped to Haran, where her brother Laban lived. Tradition says that immediately after leaving home he was robbed by Esau’s son. He was poor, hungry, desolated and fearful. With these feelings he went to sleep: :

“Jacob left Ber Shava and he went to Haran.
He encountered the (1) Place
And he stayed there overnight, because the sun has set.
He took from the stones of that (2) Place and arranged them under his head
And he slept in that (3) Place”
(Genesis 28: 10)

Since the word Place is Mount Moriah, let’s count how many times it appears in the story.

In Hebrew, “he encountered the Place.” Va-Yifga, can be read as he prayed on Mt. Moriah. This was a special prayer, as the night fell on him, as he was going out to exile. It became the prototype of all evening daily prayers, till today.  Then he lied down on the rocky ground to sleep, and he had a dream. .
All that would be expressed and answered in his Dream.

2: 3 times Place: 3 temples

Since “the Place” has become a nickname for the Temple on Mt MorIah (and the Shehinah) the verse hints for 3 temples.  So far in history we had 2 Temples: one built by King Solomon (year 1000 BC) the other by Ezra (540 BC).  The third one may be re-built soon in our times.

The Dream

1: How many Angles?

“And he dreamed: behold! A ladder set up on the Earth and its head reaches the sky.
And Behold! The Angels of (1) ELoKiM
Ascending and descending on it…

Let us also count the name ELKM in the section.

How many Angels?
Kabbala says: Seventy, representing the seventy families of Noah’s Nations (all listed after the Flood.)

Why do they ascend and descends? There are many interpretations.An important one: they climb up and down ON THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS. indeed, the name ELKM appears seven times.   :let’s also count the name of YHVH:

.“And behold! (1) YHVH stood over him (it) and said:
I am (2) YHVH, the (2) ELoKiM of Abraham your father
and the (3) ELoKiM of Isaac…”

We have counted so far 3 times ELKM, while YHVH appears twice. ”
Note that the words “YHVH stood over it:” can mean that YHVH stood over Jacob, or “over the Ladder. Both interpretations are true. How? We’ll see. Let’s continue reading:

“The Land on which you are sleeping, to you will I give it and to your seed.
And your seed will be as the dust of the Earth
and you will spread out towards the west and the east
“And through you will all the families of the Earth be blessed,
And through your seed…”

YHVH approves here Abraham’s Blessing that Isaac had given to Jacob. By this, YHVH made Jacob Abraham’s legitimate heir.

Moreover, YHVH answers Jacob’s prayer:

“And behold, I am with you and I will guard you wherever you go
And I will bring you back to this soil.
For I will not leave you till I have accomplished
that which I have promised you.”


2: Jacob’s Vow

“And Jacob awoke from his sleep and he said:
Truly (3) YHVH is in this (4) Place and I did not know it!
And he was afraid and he said:
How awesome is this (5) Place
This is none other than the House of (4) ELoKiM
And this is the Gate of Heavens!

Jacob recognizes The Place as the Gate of Heavens
Into which the Angles go up and down, carrying our prayers. Indeed, we’ve learned that the Garden of Eden has two Gates: one opens to Mt Moriah, where Adam and Eve first stood, and where the Holy of Hollies Chamber would stand; the other gate opens to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the City of Hevron.

Jacob’s vow

“Jacob rose up early in the morning and he took the stone
Which he had placed under his head and set it up as a monument.
And he poured oil on top of it, and he called the (5) Place Beth El,
but formerly its name was Luz….”
“And Jacob made a vow as follows:
(1) If (5) ELoKiM will be with me
(2) and will keep me on this path upon which I am going,
(3) and will give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,
(4) And I will return in peace to the house of my father
(5) And (then) (4) YHVH will be (6) ELoKiM to me
(6) and this stone which I‘ve set et as a memorial stone shall be a house of ELoKiM
(7) And all that you will give me I shall tithe to you…”

Jacob’s vow here is the mother of all vows: “Whoever vows, relies on Jacob” (Talmud)

what is a vow?
A vow is a strong form of a prayer, in which we express our desires.A vow has two parts:
(1) The “condition” part, where we express our wishes and hopes
(2) the “pledge” part, where we phrase our pledge.  .

Jacob’s vow too has two parts:
(1) His “condition” (lines a-d): If ELKM would be with me and provide me with food and clothing, and would return me home in peace, then
(2) His pledge: (lines f-g): Then I’d make this stone a memorial stone, and I’d build here a House to Worship  ELKM

Line 5 is problematic: And YHVH shall be my ELKM!”  Is itpart of the condition, or the pledge?
If it is a part of the condition, it means: “I wish that YHVH will guard me and provide for me, as ELKM does.”
But if it is a part of the pledge, it  means: “I’ll take on myself to keep ELKM’s Commandments more stringently (RaMBaN.) Or better: I shall take on myself another Commandment!
We need to see that in the text: So far we have counted

7 times the name ELKM,

4 times the name YHVH,

3 times “The Place” before the Dream,

3 more times The Place after the Dream

YHVH stands on the Ladder and above Jacob

Jacob lies over the seven steps of the ladder

As is seen in the following diagram:

3: Seven stairs to the Ladder




the Place,The  Place, The Place…………….The  Place The Place The Place

Jacobin his dream lies above the ladder, under YHVH

The Seventy Angles of Noah’s Families of Nations ascend up and down on the Seven Commandments.
The step which an Angle occupies reflects the nation’s spiritual status. .

In his vow, Jacob pledged to add 2 ‘steps’ or 2 commandments of ELKM over the basic 7 of Noah:

the 8th of Abraham, namely |Circumcision

the 9th Commandment of his own.

Indeed, when he comes back to the Holy Land he adds the Prohibition to eat the sciatic nerve. .

That would still leave him with two more steps of YHVH above the 9th.
Moses would later give Israel the 10 Commandments,

leaving one more step of YHVH above the ten.

The final Ladder would look like this:

11 : YHVH

Children of ISRAEL

10: ELKM (the ten commandments )

9: ELKM (The sciatic  nerve.)
8 .ELKM (Circumcision)
7 ELKM (Eating blood)
6 ELKM…..(Blasphemy)
5 ELKM……. (Justice)
4 ELKM…….. (Theft)
3 ELKM …(Bloodshed)
2 ELKM….. (Adultery)
1 ELKM …….(Idolatry)

Place, Place, Place………………………. Place, Place, Place

4: A daily ascent and descent

It comes out that we climb up to Heavens THROUGH THE COMMANDMENTS.
By overcoming the temptation to violate the Commandments we climb up to YHVH’s holiness .

We need therefore our bad inclination as a vehicle for climbing up on Jacob’s Ladder.

Esau, with his bad inclinations, could have climbed up on the Ladder higher than Jacob!

5: the ideal Adam

Let’s place things in perspective.
ELKM made Adam to become the “Image and Form” that ELKM had on his mind (Rashi)
Adam wasn’t born an ideal creature. Adam was made first in ELKM’s Image, then instructed to incorporate YHVH in his heart to become an ideal Adam, a Very Good Adam. .
This is why even on Sinai we have one more step to climb on to reach YHVH. .