This week, we read about Jacob’s dream about a ladder standing on Earth and reaching Heaven. The Talmud teaches that Jacob dreamed this sleeping on the Temple Mount, and ‘coincidentally,’ as I write these thoughts before attempting to overcome jetlag and fall asleep myself, I am visiting my older children exactly 400 metres from that spot!
We read how Jacob was escaping his older twin who was intent on killing him. Jacob fled to Ḥaran where he would live with his uncle who would also try to harm him. On the way there he dreamed of God comforting him, telling him that he would be protected on his journey and would eventually return home unharmed.
The Sages noticed that the verse says that when Jacob prepared for sleep he placed some stones under his head (Gen. 28:11); when he awoke and turned the ‘cushion’ into a monument, the verse mentions it as only one single stone (v. 18). In true Midrashic fashion, the Sages resolve this discrepancy by saying that the stones argued over who would merit to support Jacob’s head. God intervened and fused them into one stone, allowing them all to share the honour. (B. Talmud, Ḥulin 91b, quoted in Rashi on 28:11.)
Jacob’s troubles resulted from a power struggle with his brother. He would continue to suffer as a result of similar struggles in the future. In typical fashion, the Sages used their fantastic imagination to show us that we should not regard desires of grandeur as noble. To their understanding, this drive makes us no better than inanimate objects. God’s ideal is one in which everyone enjoys mutual respect and equal opportunities; all cooperate, and happily share the resulting recognition.
In sad irony, God tried to teach us this through stones, yet in Israel today the holy stones’ ownership is constantly contested, and they themselves are used as weapons to kill and terrorize. I dream of a future State of Israel universally recognized as our indigenous home, yet where there is peace between all nations who make her their home, with all finally having learned to share, collaborate and cooperate with each other as equals.
From Yerushalayim, city of Shalom, I wish you all, Shabbat Shalom.