He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, and its top reached up toward heaven. G*d's angels were going up and down on it.
Vayachalom vehineh sulam mutsav artsah verosho magia hashamaymah vehineh mal'achey Elohim olim veyoredim bo.
|Suddenly he saw G*d standing over him.
[G*d] said, 'I am G*d, Lord of Abraham your father, and Lord of Isaac. I
will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are
Vehineh Adonay nitsav alav vayomar ani Adonay Elohey Avraham avicha ve'Elohey Yitschak ha'arets asher atah shochev aleyha lecha etnenah ulezar'echa.
Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.
Vehayah zar'acha ka'afar ha'arets ufaratsta yamah vakedmah vetsafonah vanegbah venivrechu vecha kol-mishpechot ha'adamah uvezar'echa.
I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil. I will not turn aside from you until I have fully kept this promise to you.'
Vehineh anochi imach ushmarticha bechol asher-telech vahashivoticha el-ha'adamah hazot ki lo e'ezovcha ad asher im-asiti et asher-dibarti lach.
From the pit of despair, G*d reaches to him in a dream and promises to be with him through whatever the future brings. Note that He is not promising an easy life. What is being promised?
1. The land of Israel. Yes, the same one that has been fought over for the last three millenia, up to this very day. My aunts, uncles and cousins in Israel are under attack by enemies that have sworn to exterminate them. The promise of that land is a central precept in Judaism, which has sustained generations of Jews in exile. When the People of Israel were hungry, tired, and alone among the gentiles; when they were oppressed and hunted down by those whom they had considered "brothers"; this was the promise that held them together and gave them dignity as a people.
2. Many descendants! Once again, children are the greatest and most important blessing. Without children, of course, there can be no continuity of a people.
3. Then again, this blessing is double-edged. "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth." Numerous, yes, but despised. "You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south." In spite of the promise of the land of Israel, the people will be exiled throughout the earth. "All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants." So the rest of the world will be blessed through the Jews. Jews are at the forefront of social, technological, and economic advances that many millions of gentiles benefit from. There is no promise, however, about these blessings being appreciated or repaid.
And how does Jacob respond?
Jacob awoke from his sleep. 'God is truly in this place,' he said, 'but I did not know it.' Vayikats Ya'akov mishnato vayomer achen yesh Adonay bamakom hazeh ve'anochi lo yadati.
He was frightened. 'How awe-inspiring this place is!' he exclaimed. 'It must be God's temple. It is the gate to heaven!'
Vayira vayomar mah-nora hamakom hazeh eyn zeh ki im-beyt Elohim vezeh sha'ar hashamayim.
1. He awoke from his sleep: He became aware of his life in a new context
2. He recognized G*d's hand in his life, and acknowledged his previous ignorance.
3. He was frightened! Having direct contact with the divine is a huge mantle of responsibility. As the Psalmist says, "Once your eyes have been opened, you can't pretend that you don't know." This is very scary! Remember again that this is the sheltered momma's boy, out on the run from his estranged brother. He is so not prepared to be a leader of a nation!
4. He nonetheless recognizes that it is this challenge which is the gateway to heaven. Through the challenges that G*d gives us, we become the people we are meant to be.