Weekly Reading Insights: Vayeitsei  

Overview of the Weekly Reading




"He reached a certain place." (28:11)
Our Sages relate that as soon as Yaakov decided to return, a miracle occurred and he was immediately transported on his way. We learn from this that whenever a person sincerely decides to do teshuva, to return to G-d with a humble heart, he is immediately assisted from Above. "Open up for Me a breach the size of a needle's eye, and I will open for you an opening the size of a great hall."
(Michtav Me'Eliahu)

"A ladder was standing on the ground (earth) and the top of it reached to heaven". (28:12)
The Hebrew word for ladder (sulam) has the same numerical value as money (mamon). This teachers us that money is like a ladder -- it can be used to ascend and come closer to the heavens, or with it one can descend to the depths. Everything depends on how we use it and for what purpose.
(The Baal Shem Tov)

Jacob's ladder is symbolic of prayer, the purpose of which is to connect the higher celestial spheres with the lower material plane. Moreover, prayer is a two-way street, elevating a person's corporeal nature while at the same time drawing spirituality down to earth.
(Likutei Diburim - from L'Chaim #594)

The function of a ladder is to connect top and bottom, to raise up whatever is below and bring down whatever is above. In spiritual terms, the ladder between the upper and lower realms is Torah and prayer, for they enable us to "touch" the very heavens. Prayer raises up and elevates us, whereas Torah study draws down Divine wisdom into the world. And just as one must ascend and descend a physical ladder by climbing its rungs, so too must spiritual progress be orderly and in successive steps.
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5708 -from L'Chaim #545)

If a person thinks that he has already perfected himself and "reached heaven," it is a sure sign that in fact, he has a long way to go. For it is only when an individual considers himself lowly and "on the earth" that he is able to ascend to greater spiritual heights.
(Toldot Yaakov Yosef - from L'Chaim #647)

"Earth" hints to that part of the soul which is enclothed in the body. "Heavens" is symbolic of the essence and basis of the soul, which is too high to be related to the body. The "ladder" is prayer, which joins and connects these two aspects of the soul.
(The Tzemach Tzedek)

"Behold, the L-rd was standing over him ("Vehinei Hashem nitzav alav")." (28:13)
Rearranging the first letters of the above Hebrew verse results in the word "anav," meaning one who is humble. For it is precisely through humility, self-abnegation and acceptance of the yoke of Heaven that a person attains a sense of G-d's closeness.
(Ohr HaTorah)

"The land on which you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed." (28:13)
"G-d folded up the entire land of Israel beneath him." [Rashi]
Unlike his forefathers, Jacob did not have to travel the length and breadth of Israel in order to refine the sparks of holiness contained in each location. Rather, when
G-d "folded up the land beneath him," he was able to refine all of them at once, in one place.
(The Baal Shem Tov)

"Your seed shall be as the dust of the earth." (28:14)
The Jewish people are likened here to the dust of the earth, although sometimes the Torah compares the Jews to sand, and sometimes to the stars above. We learn a lesson from each of these different expressions. Stars are extremely far apart from one another in the heavens and never come into contact with each other. Grains of sand, on the other hand, are in close proximity to the other grains, but do not stick and adhere to each other. Dust, however, attaches to other particles and forms a cohesive mass. The Jewish people will receive G-d's blessings when they are as unified and undivided as dust.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, Surely the L-rd is present in this place." (28:16)
Pharaoh, too, had a dream, about which the Torah states, "And Pharaoh awoke. And he slept and dreamed a second time." This expresses the essential difference between Jacob and Pharaoh: The first thing Jacob did when he woke up was direct his attention to G-dly service, studying Torah and praying. Pharaoh, by contrast, just turned over and went back to sleep!
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan - from L'Chaim #594)

How could Jacob not have known that G-d was present? We need to understand this statement in the context it was uttered. Jacob was coming directly from the Holy Land, where he had spent 14 years studying in the yeshiva of Shem and Eber. As a result, he had mistakenly concluded that a Jew can serve G-d only through Torah study. Now, however, he realized that a Jew can serve G-d even while he is sleeping, provided it is done for the sake of Heaven.
(Otzar Chaim)

"Surely the L-rd is present in this place; and he feared and said, 'How awesome is this place'." (28:16-17)
Yaakov realized that in this very place where wild animals were, G-d's Presence was there. He understood the spiritual parallel: improper thoughts, the "wild animals of the mind," also contain holy sparks that became available to them at the "Breaking of the Vessels."
(from Baal Shem Tov -translated from Sichat HaShavuah #465)

"Rachel was shapely and beautiful to look at. …And Jacob loved Rachel." (28: 17-18)
This was because Jacob manifested the attribute of Tiferet ("Beauty"). Whenever he saw something attractive, he would say: "If this beauty so becomes a physical thing, how much higher would it be if it was dedicated to praising and glorifying G·d.
[Ohr Torah, Vayetze]
(Translation by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore for //baalshemtov.com)

"..... and Rachel was exceedingly beautiful" (Gen. 29:17)
King Solomon said: "Prettiness is a lie, and beauty is worthless; it is a woman who fears G-d who is to be praised." However, here the Torah praises beauty and calls it a big merit. One has to interpret this as follows: "Prettiness is a lie, and beauty is worthless" - prettiness and beauty themselves are false and worthless and have no value, but when this concerns a "G-d fearing woman", then "she shall be praised" - then her outward beauty testifies to her purity of thought and her good character traits, and these are really great merits.
(from Derech Avot - translated from Sichat HaShavuah 204)

Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man." (Gen. 29:19)
Laban was very eager for his daughter to marry Jacob. He knew that both Jacob and his daughter Rachel were righteous. If they were to marry other people, then surely Jacob would influence his wife to become righteous and Rachel would do the same for her husband. If that happened then Laban, a wicked person, would have to contend with four righteous people! But if Jacob and Rachel married each other, he'd only have to deal with the two of them.
(Reb Bunim M'Pshischa) (from L'Chaim #495)

"Jacob answered and said to Laban, 'What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued after me?' " (31:36)
Jacob was disturbed by Laban's insistence on maintaining their relationship, as he interpreted it as a reflection of his own behavior. He worried that he might have committed a sin, for had he been completely innocent of wrongdoing, a person like Laban would be uninterested in being his friend.
(Der Torah Kval)

"Angels of G-d encountered him." [32:2]
Rashi explains that they were angels assigned to the Holy Land, come to escort Yaakov back into the Land. But at the beginning of the Reading, Yaakov's dream of the ladder connecting heaven and earth, Rashi wrote that angels assigned to the Holy Land are not allowed to go out from it! When Yaakov was leaving the Land, of course they could not accompany him. But to step out in order to escort him in is a mitzvah, and therefore not considered as leaving.
(from Likutei Sichos -translated from Sichat HaShavuah #410)




In the present, the Torah is garbed in narratives - the story of Laban, the story of Bilam, and the like. In the time to come, however, the mysteries hidden in these narratives will be disclosed: it will become apparent how these stories in fact speak of G-d, of the building of supernal worlds. This is why the Midrash teaches that G-d says that "at that time the Torah will go forth from Me": the way in which the entire Torah speaks of G-d will then be revealed.
(Keser Shem Tov, sec. 84 and 242)[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

"He came to the place and spent the night there because the sun went down; he took some stones from the place and put them at his head, and he laid down on that place." (28:11)
Why does the Torah write the word, "the place," three times? The place spoken about is Mt. Moriah, where the Akeidah of Yitzchak took place and where the Holy Temple was later to be built. The three repetitions hint to the three Temples.
The first time ("he came to the place and spent the night there because the sun went down") hints to the first Temple, and the darkness corresponds to its destruction. The second time ("and he took some stones from the place, and placed them at his head") hints to the second Temple. And because the second Temple had only "some" of the holiness of the first Temple, the verse says, "some stones," instead of "the stones." The third time ("and he laid down on that place") corresponds to the 3rd Temple. This is because the 3rd Temple will stand forever, and we will finally merit to rest and serve Hashem in eternal peace.
(Abarbanel- From Discover Moshiach in the Weekly Torah Portion, as posted on Mashiach.org)

"Behold! Angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it." (Gen. 28:12)
In his dream, Jacob saw four angels. Each angel corresponded to one of the four exiles of the Jewish people. The first angel went up and down 70 steps of the ladder. This was the angel of Babylonia that ruled over the Jewish people for 70 years. Next, the angel of Media went up and down 52 steps; then the angel of Greece went up and down 180 steps. Media ruled over the Jewish people for 52 years and Greece for 180 years. But the angel of Rome - our present exile - went up and Jacob did not see it come down. He asked G-d, "Will the Redemption never come?" G-d answered, "The last exile will be very long, but fear not. I, Myself, will bring him down!"
(Midrash Tanchuma)

"Ufaratzta (you shall break through; spread out) to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south." (Gen. 28:14)
In our present days we have to serve G-d in a manner of ufaratzta, that is, without any restrictions and limitations - in the sense of "You shall love G-d .. with all your might" (Va'etchanan 6:5).
Thus we shall hasten the coming of Moshiach, a descendent of Peretz (the son of Yehuda and King David's ancestor), of whom it is said, "The poretz (the one who breaks through; i.e., the one who clears all obstacles and barriers) is gone up before them." (Micha 2:13)
[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

"Your seed shall be as the dust of the earth." (Gen. 28:14)
G-d promised Jacob that the Jewish nation will be like the humble dust: Everyone treads upon it, but in the end, the dust has the last word and covers all. The Jewish people, after suffering at the hands of the nations of the world, will eventually be victorious and prevail.
(Tzror Hamor)

"I will return to my father's house untainted." (Gen. 28:21)
The Zohar and the Midrash interpret Jacob's descent to Charan as an allegory for the exile of the Jewish people. Jacob therefore says that ultimately, in the messianic age, "he," i.e., his descendents, will return from exile to "my father's house," to the Land of Israel. The phrase "I will return to my father's house untainted" thus refers both to sanctifying the mundane and to the messianic age, indicating that the former is a prerequisite for ushering in the latter.
(Excerpted from Kehot's Chumash Bereishit)

"Lo, the day is yet long; it is not the time to gather the cattle; water the sheep, and go and feed them." (Gen. 29:7)
"The day is yet long" -- the great and powerful Day of the L-rd is approaching; "it is not the time to gather the cattle" -- there's no time to waste accumulating possessions in this temporal world, as every moment is precious.
(Ma'ayanot HaNetzach)

Rabbi Meir of Premishlan used to pray: "Father in Heaven! If it is not yet time to gather the lost flock of Israel in the Final Redemption, at least bless them abundantly from Your full and Holy Hand, that they may be able to anticipate and look forward to Your salvation, may it come speedily in our day.
[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

"Because G-d has looked at my affliction, because now my husband will love me." (Gen. 29:32)
Metaphorically speaking, G-d and the Jewish people are likened to man and wife. In exile, the Jews suffer from spiritual poverty and affliction. Yet when G-d considers how faithful we remain to Him despite our troubles, His love for us is reawakened and rekindled - a love that will ultimately be consummated with the Final Redemption.
(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 22) (from L'Chaim #545)

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