Perashat VayesseFriday, November 28, 2014
This week’s perasha starts with the journey of Yaakob Abinu, who must leave the safe environs of his parents’ home in Canaan in order to go to Haran, the country of his ancestors, to seek an appropriate wife. The Torah tells us that on the way to Haran, he needed to sleep over for the night and he had the famous dream of the ladder reaching from the earth to the heavens, with the Angels of G-d ascending and descending upon it. What was the significance of this dream, and why did it occur at this particular time during his life when he was on his way to the house of his uncle Laban?
Rabbi Y. Frand notes that the the Ba’al HaTurim points out that the Hebrew word for ladder has the same numeric value as the Hebrew word for money (sulam b'gematria mammon). Therefore, it follows that the image of the ladder is supposed to send a message to Yaakob Abinu about money. What is that message?
At that moment, Yaakob is undergoing a major transition in his life, from an "ish tam yoshev ohalim" - a pure man, who sits in the tents of learning - a life devoted to spiritual growth and self improvement - to a working man; a man of the “real world.” He would no longer be living an insulated existence. In addition, he would have to deal with Laban, the quintessential con-man.
Rabbi Frand says that the message of ladder = money is that Yaakob's success in the "real world" would hinge on how he would deal with making a living, an issue that remains with us for most of our adult lives. This issue can become the focus of a person's life. It can overtake a person and upset him and his spiritual goals in life. Life is like this ladder - there are many “ups and downs”. It depends to a very large extent on how one deals with the issue of money. It is not inevitable that after leaving the safety of the tent, the Yeshiba – that their spiritual growth may be over and everything spiritual may be "down-hill from now on." On the contrary, a person can grow through challenge and adversity. The one who copes successfully with difficult challenges, ascends rather than descends the ladder. He can rise from the ground to the heaven! If on the other hand, he allows the challenges of earning a living to consume him, then a person can suffer tremendous spiritual descent. That is why that at this very juncture in his life, Yaakob has the dream of the ladder.
Yaakob was successful at maintaining his spirituality during his stay in Haran. As we read in next week's perasha, Yaakob says, "With Laban I resided (garti)" - to which the rabbis add "and I kept the 613 (taryag) commandments without picking up his evil traits." Yaakob managed to bridge the gap between the tent of Torah and the business environment of Laban. He managed to elevate his spirituality even in his place of work. Growth in Torah and Judaism can be challenging while facing the "outside world". Like with the ladder, one must ascend carefully step by step. This is a challenge for each and every one of us. May we all meet this challenge successfully with the help of Boreh Olam!
Jun 2 2020
Sivan 10 5780