Friday, November 23, 2012

The Rise of the House of Ladders


"ויחלם והנה סלם מצב ארצה וראשו מגיע השמימה והנה מלאכי א-לוקים עלים וירדים בו" [בראשית כח:יב]
"And he dreamt, and behold, a ladder is placed upon the ground and it reaches into the heavens and angels of G-d ascend and descend upon it" [Bereshis 28:12]

Chazal (Pesachim 88a) teach us that each one of the three Avos had a particular strength in relating to Hashem. This is alluded to by the name that each one of the Avos gave Har Hamoriah (where Yaakov's dream takes place).
Avraham called the place the mountain of Hashem. Yitzchak refered to it as a field (when he went there to pray mincha). Yaakov dubs this place the 'house' of Hashem. The gemara maintains that Yaakov's description is the most fitting. Why ? because both a mountain and a field – while being splendorous in their own way – are still natural phenomena. Climbing a mountain may be impressive, but the 'rights' belong to the creator of that mountain. A large plateau may offer a wide scope for contemplation of G-d's wonders, but the view alone does not equal possession. Only a house, a completely man made structure, can truly belong to its owner.
By labeling the Temple Mount as a 'house' Yaakov is transcending a naturalist form of divine worship that was past down to him and entering the final level of service of G-d (see Rav Hirsch's extensive comments regarding the matzeiva). It is not enough for us to ascribe divine authorship to the wonders around us – we must also devote our own actions and achievements to glorifying His name. We may think that no palace we build can compare with the majesty of a mountain or the vastness of a field – but therein lies our mistake. Hashem doesn't want us to re-create the world – He knows our limitations – He just wants out best efforts, that we build him a 'home sweet home' for the divine presence to dwell.
This is why Yaakov's ladder is "placed" upon the ground. Because the foundation of Yaakov's ascent to spiritual greatness is not by chance and it is not just because the natural force of gravity would secure the ladder to the earth. Rather, Yaakov intentionally places the ladder in its position and begins to climb (metaphorically, of course) knowing that his personal road to achievement winds through each man-made rung.
And us ? We must always remember – G-d doesn't want us to create mountains or birth great oceans, He only wants the accomplishments that He has given us the power to bring to fruition. And when we dedicate those to Him – He will respond and once again dwell in the house which we will build. May it be speedily, in our days, amen.

Hatzlacha !!