Bereshit Twenty-Eight: Jacob’s Ladder

We pick up right where we left off, and Isaac blesses Jacob before sending him to Laban to find a wife. “Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from among the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. And God bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a congregation of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you, and to your seed with you; that you may inherit the land of your wanderings, which God have to Abraham (Genesis 28:2-4).” This is a touching moment between father and son, and must have been validating for Jacob, to finally receive a blessing that was actually meant for him, and not one won by deceit and trickery.

Esau, in his ongoing attempts to please his parents, finally notices that they’re not pleased with his wives, and so he leaves too, to go to Ishmael and find more women that have a better chance of pleasing his family.

Jacob, on the other hand, goes towards Haran, to Rebecca’s family. On his way, he stops to rest, and “he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, God stood beside him, and said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land where you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed (Genesis 28:11-13.'”

This is Jacob’s first direct interaction with God, through the prophecy of his dream of the ladder. There’s a tradition in Judaism coming from the TalmudĀ that says that a dream is 1/60th of a prophecy. Jacob’s however, is the direct word of God.

“And Jacob woke up form his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely God is in this place; and I knew it not.’ And he was afraid, and said: ‘How full of awe is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:16-17).'” I like this description of Jacob’s response to his first prophecy. As we transition from Isaac as the patriarch and keeper of the covenant to Jacob fulfilling the role promised to him by the birthright and blessing, he’s in awe of God. The fear and wonder that he feels are completely legitimate, and I like that the Torah takes note of the emotions of this moment.

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