Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes
© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Torah Class JUSTICE-5/JACOB’S LADDER
The section we are about to study, Jacob’s Ladder, is one of the most familiar stories of the Bible. And as a rule, the more a story is known, the more interpretations it gets.
In our study, we’ll follow the Book of Zohar, since it makes the Dream relevant to the relationship between Israel and the Nations.
So let’s follow the Torah’s narrative and start by Jacob fleeing for his life from his parent’s home:
2: Jacob prayed in The Place
Following his mother Rebecca’s advice, Jacob escapes home to Haran, where Rebecca’s brother Laban lives. Tradition says that immediately after he left home he was robbed by Esau’s grandson, Amalek. He was therefore poor, hungry, desolated and fearful. These feelings explains what came next:
“Jacob left Ber Shava and he went to Haran.
He encountered the (1) Place
And he stayed there overnight, because the sun has set.
He took from the stones of that (2) Place and arranged them under his head
And he slept in that (3) Place” (Genesis 28: 10)
We can feel Jacob’s mood. He “encountered the Place.” In Hebrew “encountered,” Va-Yifga, Cn mean simply that he “hit the place,” that he came there unprepared. Since by tradition “The Place” refers to Mt. Moriah, the rabbis said that Jacob “hit” or PRAYED on Mt. Moriah.
Now many religions teach that G-d already knows our needs and therefore there is no need for prayers. All that G-d expects from us are praises like chanting halleluiah.
But here lies not only the source that sanctions prayers, but also renders it a meaning. The words “Jacob hit the Place,” can mean that he was praying so hard as if he “hit G-d by his fist”, laying out his requests. The verb “Pallel” is both “to wrestle with” and “to pray,” the same world!
We pray to G-d not because it would help Him, but rather because it would help us. When we utter our needs, we must think about them and arrange them in logical way. Praying helps us to analyze our needs before verbalizing them.
“The Place” was Mt Moriah. Here Adam and Eve first stood, Cain killed Abel, and Noah offered his first sacrifice-prayer after the Flood. Noah too unloaded there his heart, presenting a petition. He was adamant not to procreate and start civilization again, UNLESS Heaven would answer his petition-prayer.
Now it was Jacob who “hit” the Heavenly Court by his prayer. He poured out his heart, worries, his hunger and his fears from the unknown future.
All that would be expressed and answered in his Dream.
3: Three daily prayers
By this, the rabbis said, Jacob laid the foundation of our third daily prayer.
The morning prayer is based on Abraham’s prayer on Mt Moriah. It is said that Abraham “woke up early in the morning and he took his son Isaac…” The morning prayer is therefore said with fear, awe, trembling before G-d as if we are lying there on the altar instead of Isaac (RaMBaM.)
The second daily prayer follows Isaac as he met Rebecca. As you remember, when Rebecca first saw him, he was “walking in the field.” The Hebrew verb used here for ‘walking’, La-suah, literally also means “to converse.” Hence the prayer’s mood changes in the afternoon to the feeling of a loving conversation between Man and G-d, like between a bride and a groom.
The third daily prayer, the evening prayer follows Jacob as he hit G-d going to exile, as the sun goes down. The mood of the prayer changes accordingly.
Needless to say, those three daily prayers were chanted in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, along with the proper offerings.
This is a good introduction to the Ladder Dream.
4: The Place
So far we counted three times the words “The Place” appear in the verses. “The Place,” ha-makom became a nickname for Mt. Moriah, but also for YHVH, the Shchinah who dwells in the Temple. For instance we bless the mourners: Ha-Makom would comfort you…”
Since “The Place” appears here 3 times, some commentaries say it refers to “three Temples” which would stand there: (1) one built by King Solomon (2) the second built by Ezra (3) the third one will be built in the future.
But as we’ll soon see, there are 3 more times “The Place” appears after the Dream, making it a total of 6 times “The Place” mentioned in the story: 3 before the Dream and 3 following it. We’ll discuss the full meaning of that presentation, but we may can say that these 6 refer to 6 ‘tabernacles’:
(1) Moses’ Tabernacle in the wilderness
(2) Joshua’s Tabernacle in the Gilgal
(3) The Tabernacle in Shiloh that stood 400 years
(4) King Solomon’s Temple on Mt Moriah
(5) Ezra’s Second Temple on Mt Moriah
(6) The next Third Temple on Mt. Moriah.
1: How many Angles?
“And he dreamt: behold!
A ladder set up on the Earth and its head reaches the sky.
And Behold! The Angels of (1) ELoKiM
Ascending and descending on it…
There are so many good interpretations to the Dream. As I have said, we’ll use one offered by the Book of Zohar, the source of Kabala; the poetry of the Jewish People.
How many Angels?
Kabala says: Seventy, representing the seventy families of Noah’s Nations listed in the verses after the Flood.) Why do they ascend and descends?
Again, there are so many interpretations.
Since they are called “The Angels of ELKM” let’s count how many times the Name ELKM appears in the story.
So far we’ve seen only one ELKM. But let’s continue reading about the Dream:
“And behold! (1) YHVH stood over him (it) and said:
I am (2) YHVH, the (2) ELoKiM of Abraham your father
and the (3) ELoKiM of Isaac…”
We have counted here 2 more” ELKM” and also 2 new “YHVH.”
“YHVH stood over it:” In Hebrew it sounds as if YHVH stood “over him,” over Jacob, or “over it”, the Ladder. Both interpretations are true. YHVH was standing OVER Jacob and OVER the Ladder. How? We’ll see. Let’s continue reading:
“The Land on which you are sleeping, to you will I give it and to your seed.
And your seed will be as the dust of the Earth
and you will spread out towards the west and the east
“And through you will all the families of the Earth be blessed,
And through your seed…”
YHVH gives Jacob the Blessing that She had given to Abraham.
By this, in YHVH eyes Jacob is the legitimate firstborn of Isaac.
Moreover, YHVH answers Jacob’s prayer:
“And behold, I am with you and I will guard you wherever you go
And I will bring you back to this soil.
For I will not leave you till I have accomplished
that which I have promised you.”
2: Jacob’s Vow
“And Jacob awoke from his sleep and he said:
Truly (3) YHVH is in this (4) Place and I did not know it!
And he was afraid and he said:
How awesome is this (5) Place
This is none other than the House of (4) ELoKiM
And this is the Gate of Heavens!
Jacob recognizes the Place as the Gate of Heavens
Into which the Angles go up and down, carrying our prayers.
Indeed, we’ve learned that the Garden of Eden has two Gates:
one opens to Mt Moriah, where Adam and Eve first stood, and where the Holy of Holies Chamber would stand, the other opens the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the City of Chevron.
“Jacob rose up early in the morning and he took the stone
Which he had placed under his head and set it up as a monument.
And he poured oil on top of it, and he called the (5) Place Beth El,
but formerly its name was Luz….”
“And Jacob made a vow as follows:
(1) If (5) ELoKiM will be with me
(2) and will keep me on this path upon which I am going,
(3) and will give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,
(4) And I will return in peace to the house of my father
(5) And (then) (4) YHVH will be (6) ELoKiM to me
(6) and this stone which I‘ve set et as a memorial stone shall be a house of ELoKiM
(7) And all that you will give me I shall tithe to you…”
Let’s pay attention to Jacob’s Vow, since it is the mother of all vows: “Whoever vows, relies on Jacob” (Talmud)
what is a vow?
A vow is basically a strong form of a prayer, in which we express our desires.
A vow has two parts:
(1) The “condition” part in which the person expresses his prayer
(2) the “pledge” part in which the person vows to do or not to do something.
Jacob’s vow too has two parts:
(1) His “condition” (lines a-d): If ELKM will be with me, and will provide me with food and clothing, and will return me home in peace, then
(2) His pledge: (lines f-g): Then I’d make this a memorial stone, and I’ll build here a House for Worshipping ELKM
But one line in the middle is problematic. It says: “And YHVH shall be my ELKM!”
Is it a part of the condition, or the pledge?
If it is a part of the condition, it would mean: “I wish that YHVH would guard me and provide for me as ELKM does.”
But if it is a part of the pledge, it would mean: “I’ll take on myself to keep ELKM’s Commandments more stringently (RaMBaN.) Or better: I shall take on myself another Commandment!
We need to see that in the text:
So far we’ve counted
7 times “ELKM”
4 times “YHVH”
3 times “The Place” before the Dream, and 3 more times after the Dream
Hence the Dream looks like the following diagram
3: Seven stairs to the Ladder
P lace, Place, Place, Place, Place, Place,
Here the Ladder comprises of seven stairs, against the seven times ELKM appears in the text, against Noah’s Seven Commandments.
The Seventy Angles of the Noahide Seventy Families of Nations,
Ascend and descend on the Ladder, meaning on the Seven Commandments.
Each Angle occupies a step on the Ladder according to how many Commandments its nations keeps.
An Angle position on the Ladder reflects its nation moral status.
Egypt for instance stood at the bottom, since its nation practiced witchcraft and worshipped Death.
The Angels ascend and descends, since the morality of the nations may change.
In fact, every individual in any nation may change, ascend and descends, according to our moral status.
In the Dream, Jacob saw himself on the Ladder, while YHVH ‘stood’ over him or over it.
The above diagram depicts Jacob lying over the Seventh step, while YHVH and Her Holiness ‘stands’ four more steps above him.
The Ladder can have no more than eleven stairs: Seven of YHVH. That presents a ceiling, that Jacob and his children may continue to climb upon to reach the top:
4 : Eight stairs to the Ladder
Now we can better comprehend his vow.
He pledged: If ‘ll return in peace, YHVH shall be my ELKM.
I will take on himself one more stringency, one more Commandment of ELKM.
I would make YHVH my ELKM,
And the Ladder would look like this:
P lace, Place, Place, Place, Place, Place,
5: The Ninth stair
Here Jacob seems to keep 8 Commandments, like Abraham, and he would have 3 more ‘stairs’ of YHVH Holiness’ above him.
This vision in the Dream set the ground for the Angelic Morning Choir that chants “Holy, Holy, Holy “ (3 times holy) while Jacob, the person, joins them from Earth (Isaiah).
We will discuss the Choir in due course, as Jacob’s name would change to Israel.
When Jacob finally returned home in peace, he fulfilled his vow:
He not only accepted Abraham’s eight Commandments, including Circumcision,
But also added ON HIMSLEF and on HIS CHILDREN to keep another, ninth Commandment:
The prohibition to eat the sciatic nerve. By this Jacob-Israel climbed up the Ladder which now looks like this:
9. ELKM (Sciatic nerve.)
8 .ELKM (Circumcision)
7 ELKM (Eating blood)
5 ELKM……. (Justice)
4 ELKM…….. (Theft)
3 ELKM …(Bloodshed)
2 ELKM….. (Adultery)
1 ELKM …….(Idolatry)
P lace, Place, Place, Place, Place, Place,
6: Tenth stair
And then, on Sinai, when Israel received 10 Commandments
the Ladder looked like this:
P lace, Place, Place, Place, Place, Place,
Here Israel keeps ELKM’s 10 Commandments, and clings to one more step of YHVH Holiness.
7: All prayers sent to Moriah
Let’s remember that Jacob was a “Child of Noah” rather than a “Jew.” (RaMBaM)
His dream pertains to all Mankind.
Hence his words: “This is the Gate of Heavens,” pertains to all Mankind.
All prayers should be mentally directed to Mt. Moriah
For when King Solomon inaugurated the Holy Temple on Mt. Moriah,
he said that this house shall be the Place for all peoples to offer prayers and sacrifices.
Hence all nations should direct their prayers to Jacob Ladder.
8: A daily ascent and descent
If every stair on the ladder represents a Commandment,
It comes out that we climb up to Heavens THROUGH THE COMMANDMENTS.
By overcoming the attraction to violate them, be climb up to YHVH.
Without overcoming our bad inclination, we would not merit climbing up.
We need therefore our bad inclination as a vehicle for climbing up on Jacob’s Ladder.
Esau, with his bad inclinations, could have climbed up on the Ladder higher than Jacob!
Same as Rebecca who climbed higher than Isaac. .
9: the ideal Adam
Let’s place things in perspective.
At Adam creation, ELKM made us to become the “Image and Form”
which He had about us on His Mind (Rashi)
Adam wasn’t born an ideal creature. Adam was made first in ELKM’s Image, then instructed to incorporate YHVH in his heart to become an ideal creature, a Very Good one.
This is why even on Sinai, having climbed on Ten Commandments, or ten stairs of Jacob Ladder,
There was one more stair to climb on: YHVH Holiness.
By this Man would accomplish his task on Earth: Unite YHVH with ELKM, the Bride with the Groom, so that the consummation of their Love would fill his heart with joy, warmth and happiness beyond reach.
END OF JUSTICE CLASS 5 2016