There is a marked contrast set up by two similar events in the book of Braishis. We read
this week in Vayeitzei about Jacob having a dream that is really a vision from God. He
sees a ladder stretching, Midrash tells us, from his home in Beersheva to the place he was
sleeping, Mount Moriah, site of the Akeida and future home to the Holy Temples in
Jerusalem. There are angels ascending and descending from the ladder, proving, the
Rabbi’s tell us, that Jacob was being guarded by heavenly creatures during his travels.
The sages tell us that because the first angels are going up the ladder, they must have
been with Jacob all along. The ones coming down are arriving to take up the guard duty
that is being passed to them from the first set of angels. And, one might ask, what about
the time that Jacob was unguarded, the time in between the two sets of angels? At that
time, our commentaries state, Jacob was being guarded by God Himself. The message
from God then is given to Jacob. It is a reiteration of the covenant given to his father and
grandfather; God will be blessing the fledging Jewish nation and will give to them the
land upon which Jacob is sleeping. God will be with him wherever he goes.
This metaphor of Divine protection seems so comforting to me. From Jacob’s dream,
perhaps we can all conclude that we are under the shelter of God’s wings.
Another story of a dream is related later on, in Parshat Miketz. Pharaoh is sleeping and
has a vision from God. The dream is about seven lean cows and fat cows, a warning to
the king about impending doom to his country. Of course, as we know, it would take
Joseph to interpret the puzzling metaphor.
Besides the obvious differences in tone of each dream, there is another telling difference
between the two narratives. When Pharoah awakened from his sleep, the Torah relates
that he went back to sleep. What a departure from Jacob’s reaction to his dream! The
Torah tells us in Vayeitzei that when he awakens, he is immediately aware of the
Presence of God and dedicates himself to Divine service. Quite different than turning
over and going back to sleep.
The Baal Shem Tov, the first Chassidic master, quoted the Talmud that each day a
Heavenly voice emanates from the mountain of Sinai urging people to make teshuvah, to
return to the mitzvot. “Of what use is this voice,” asked the Baal Shem Tov, “since no
one has ever attested to hearing it?”
He then explained that although this voice is physically inaudible to the human ear, it is
heard by the neshamah, the soul. The moments that we are moved to do teshuvah are due
to the neshamah perceiving the voice from Sinai.
As we see from the two reactions to a call from God, there can be two results. We can
ignore the call and go back to the hibernation of ingrained habits, or we can emulate
Jacob and rouse ourselves to an awakened state and take constructive action.
The Divine voice calls to us. Let us heed the call.
Rabbi David Grossman
Rabbi Joshua Grossman