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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

What dreams may come

Posted by rabbiart on November 29, 2008

I must confess that when i first read the opening of our parshah I was struck by this question.  How do you fall asleep with  stones for a pillow? “He took some of the stones of the place, put them under his head, and slept in that place.”  Is Yakov especially hard-headed? Are these magic stones that turn soft and supportive when you rest on them?

According to the Talmud (Bavli, Chullin 91b) the stones were – magical that is! Verse 11 mentions that he took ‘stones’ (in the plural), but when Yakov awakes, it says that he takes the stone (singular) he had placed at his head and sets up the stone as a monument, and anoints it.  R. Isaac said “This tells us that all the stones gathered themselves together into one place and each one said, ‘Upon me shall this righteous man rest his head’. Thereupon all the stones were merged together into one.”  One recurring theme in Talmudic literature is the impact that the rigtheous have on the world, even the physical part of it.

Anyway, Yakov fell asleep and dreamed his famous ladder dream with angels ascending and descending (in that unexpected order). Nehama Leibowitz brings forth several classic midrashic interpretations of the dream here. Yakov, fleeing his family and everything he has known, gets a new traveling companion, so to speak.

וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ, וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-תֵּלֵךְ, וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ, אֶל-הָאֲדָמָה הַזֹּאת:  כִּי, לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ, עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם-עָשִׂיתִי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבַּרְתִּי לָךְ

Behold, I am with you, I will guard you wherever you go. I will return you to this land because I will not leave you until I have done what I have told you.

Interesting that HaShem identifies HaShem’s self as the father of Avraham, not the father of Yitzhak. As if to say there is no father-son relationship between Yakov and Yitzhak his father. This encounter is understood to take place on Har HaMoriah – a dangerous place for the relationship between  fathers and sons.
” אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ, וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק; הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שֹׁכֵב עָלֶיהָ–לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה, וּלְזַרְעֶךָ ”
I am HaShem the god of Avraham your father, also the god of Yitzhak. The land that you sleep on, to you I will give it, and to your seed.”

the text tells us that HaShem stands in relation to Yakov just as Hashem did with Avraham at
Elonei Mamre. There (Breshit18:2) the text says

וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו

and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood beside him; and here (Chapter 28:13) the text says

וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה נִצָּב עָלָיו

HaShem stood beside him.

Now HaShem repeats the promise that Avraham received, minus the warnings of slavery in Mitzrayim. What about the power of this promise?  Is it as convincing as all the promises that HaShem gave Avraham?  Should we expect Yakov to trust in this one promise?  (and the obvious question) What promises have we received?  Why do we (if we do) still believe?

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One Response to “What dreams may come”

  1. Warren said

    To the seventeen, or so, interpretations of Jacob’s dream, all of them correct, I offer a fragment of yet another. Considering what the dream might tell us about the character of the dreamer: here is a man favored by his mother not only over his brother but even over his father. This likely provided J with a strong sense of self worth, a necessary ingredient for high aspirations. I suggest that the dream, with the angels (the dreamer himself?) going up indicates his ambitious nature, even in the face of potential set backs (angels going down).
    Warren Gould

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