In our Parsha Vayetze, we read about Jacob who had to flee from his parents’ house for not being murdered by his brother Esau. This escape led him to Haran, where he started a beautiful family, but faced enormous business difficulties with his father-in-law. Difficulties that led him, in the end, to manage the great escape from Haran and the home of Laban, the grandfather of his children.
What kept Jacob going for these long and difficult years, when he was lonely, distant from his parents’ home, cheated, and repeatedly threatened by his father-in-law? For this we will have to go back to the beginning of Jacob’s journey from the land of Canaan to Haran. When Jacob was on the way, he lay down for the night and had a wonderful dream. He saw in his dream “a ladder placed on the ground and its top reaching to heaven” and on the ladder – “the angels of God ascend and descend on it”.
The dream symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth, the possibility of man living a mundane and holy life at the same time, and the human ability to bridge the gap between earth and heaven.
Jacob set out on his life’s journey armed with these insights. He knew that even when he lived in a foreign land, in solitude and subject to blackmail, there was meaning to his life, his actions and his conduct. He learned that even when we are at the bottom, we are not disconnected from the sky. He believed that man can be stationed on earth, but his head can reach heaven.
He also recognized that the ups and downs in his private life were not glitches but part of a complex plan within which he was sent to live. He saw angels going up and down the ladder and concluded that he too could be like that: go down and go back up. Never stay down, always come back and climb the ladder that leads to heaven.
When Jacob woke up from his sleep, he was excited and exclaimed: “How terrible is this place! It is none other than the “House of God”, and it is the “Gate of heaven.”
Jacob discovered the connection between heaven and earth. On the one hand, the earthly place where he is staying is the “House of God.” God dwells in the land; He is unreachable and distant.
On the other hand, he discovered that the place where he was, is the “gate of heaven” – a gate from earth to heaven. Jacob discovered the connection between heaven and earth are on both sides of him and could overcome the difficulties and strangles he will expect to face in Haran, equipped with faith and confidence, hope and meaning, knowing that always we can find connection between what is happening on earth and the decree from heaven.
Rabbi Refael Cohen