Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 17   No. 7

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Eliyahu Zev ben R' Yerachmiel Moshe z"l
by his family in honour of his 21st Yohrzeit
on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeitzei

The Ladder
(Two Perspectives)

(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Of the five explanations of the ladder in Ya'akov's dream (see first Parshah Pearl), the last two concern Ya'akov's personal life and existence (the three worlds), respectively, both of which we will now discuss.


Ya'akov's Personal Life

The 'Angels of G-d' referred to in the dream, says the Medrash, were the ones who told Lot that they had been sent to destroy S'dom (Gavriel and Micha'el - see first Parshah Pearl, Parshas Vayeira), attributing G-d's impending miracle to themselves, for which they were consequently expelled from the realm of Heaven. They were now permitted to return to Heaven ('ascending'), returning to earth immediately ('descending') on the current mission.


Alternatively, and this is the explanation that concerns the current interpretation of the dream, the angels that ascended the ladder were those who accompanied Ya'akov up to the borders of Eretz Yisrael, whilst those that descended were the ones who would now accompany him for the remainder of his trip in Chutz la'Aretz.

Before setting out on their mission however, they first ascended the ladder from whatever task they had just completed, and it is only after they perceived the image of Ya'akov engraved on G-d's Throne that they descended it once more to set out on their new mission.


Finally G-d assured Ya'akov that, notwithstanding the angels, He would personally stand over him and keep an eye on his wellbeing, to ensure that no harm befall him.

What happened to the Avos, as we know, is indicative of what would happen later to Yisrael in the course of history. Sure enough, Chazal inform us, that (notwithstanding any angels that protect Yisrael in Galus) G-d Himself accompanies Yisrael into Galus, and ensures that they survive their tormentors' efforts to destroy them.

See also Parshah Pearls 'Ya'akov Avinu & the Keruvim'.


Existence (the Three Worlds)

Since the ladder had many rungs, observes R. Bachye, it follows that the object of the dream was to teach Ya'akov the various worlds that bridge the space between G-d and this world.

The three worlds, that of the angels, the sun and moon and the constellations, and this world (which we have basically discussed on a number of times in the past), are also hinted in Tehilim, where David Hamelech writes (103:30-22) "Bless Hashem His angels" "Bless Hashem all His hosts" "Bless Hashem all His works".

And Shlomoh Hamelech too, refers to them in Shir Hashirim, where, in three consecutive Pesukim (8:13-15), he speaks about "His (Hashem's) Cheeks", "His Hands" and "His calves" (representing the upper world (of the angels), the middle world (of the constellations) and the lower world (in which we live). These Pesukim, he explains, depict Yisrael relating the praises of G-d, with regard to His creations.

The author explains how a. "the cheeks" (which house the tongue and which play a major role in man's power of speech) mentioned in the first Pasuk, refer to the angels, whose task it is to 'tell' the prophets their prophesies; b. "the hands" (the symbol of action, mentioned in the second Pasuk), to the constellations (incorporating the twelve Mazalos) , which basically govern everything that occurs in this world; and c. "the calves" (the lower end of the of the body) mentioned there in the third Pasuk, to this world, the lower end of the universe.

I have briefly presented the essence of Rabeinu Bachye's explanation. There are many details that lack of space forced me to omit.

G-d was now showing Ya'akov that these three worlds comprise the entire existence, and that they are ultimately controlled by G-d Himself (particularly when it comes to Tzadikim, whom Ya'akov Avinu symbolizes).


Note, how the Pasuk hints at the three worlds briefly, starting with this world, since that is where Ya'akov Avinu was at the time, when it writes "And behold a ladder (depicting Existence) was standing on the ground, its head reaching the heavens, and behold Angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it".

"Ascending", R. Bachye explains, refers to the angels that G-d created on the second day of the creation, which live forever, whereas "descending" refers to those that He created on the fifth day (and continues to create daily), who sing Shiroh once and are immediately destroyed.

And the Pasuk concludes "And behold G-d was standing over it ", to teach Ya'akov that nothing occurs outside G-d's jurisdiction.


* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Dream

"And he dreamt " (28:11).

This was not a regular dream, the likes of which most people dream at night, says R. Bachye; nor was it simply a dream of Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, like the dreams of Yosef and of Paroh, King of Egypt. This was a dream of a Navi receiving a prophecy (in the manner that all prophets, with the exception of Moshe Rabeinu, prophesied).


And his prophesy, Rabeinu explains later, concerned one more of six issues - 1. the Beis-Hamikdash; 2. Matan Torah at Har Sinai; 3. the four Kingdoms (Bavel, Persia & Medes, Greece and Edom (Rome); 4. Ya'akov's personal life; 5. Existence (the three worlds). Each of these the author explains in detail. See main article, where we discuss the last two.


The Ladder

"And behold there was a ladder standing on the ground, with its top reaching the Heavens" (Ibid.)

"On the ground", R. Bachye explains, means in Be'er Sheva, where Ya'akov had gone to Daven, as Rashi explains. However with regard to "its top reaching the heavens", he agrees with the Ramban, that this refers to the location of the Beis Hamikdash shel Ma'alah, which serves as both the exit point of the angels (when leaving on their missions) and reentry point (when they return). And it was in the Beis-Hamikdash shel Ma'alah that G-d stood guard over him against Lavan and Eisav.

And when the Medrash (also cited by Rashi) says that the 'slope' corresponded to the Beis-Hamikdash, it is referring (not to the middle of the slope, as Rashi interprets it, but) to the top of the slope.


Ya'akov Avinu & the Keruvim

"And behold, G-d was standing on it" (25:13).

According to the simple explanation, "on it" refers to the ladder, which ultimately, was under G-d's control. However, according to Kabalah, says R. Bachye, it refers to Ya'akov Avinu, as if to say that G-d was riding on Ya'akov. The Torah is comparing Ya'akov to a K'ruv (cherub), about which the Pasuk in Shmuel (2 22:11) writes "And He rode on a K'ruv and He flew". Indeed, Chazal have said that the Avos are synonymous with the Merkavah (the Chayos that support G-d's Holy Throne).


The Gemara in Succah (5b), commenting on a Pasuk in Yechezkel, concludes that the two Keruvim in the Beis-Hamikdash differed from one another, in that one had a large face ('Apei Ravrevi') and the other, a small one ('Apei Zutri'). Rashi there explains that 'Apei Ravrevi' refers to the face of a K'ruv (an angel), 'Apei Zutri', to the face of a preson. Bearing in mind that 'Zutri' means small (katan), and Ya'akov Avinu was called 'Katan' (see Amos 7:2), R. Bachye comments, it follows that the face of the second K'ruv was that of Ya'akov Avinu. This conforms beautifully with the Medrash that the image of Ya'akov Avinu is engraved on G-d's Kisei ha'Kavod.

And this, he adds, is the Kabalistic interpretation of the Pasuk in 'Borchi Nafshi' (104:25) "Chayos ketanos im gedolos". And this is also what the Pasuk in Toldos (25:27) means when it describes Ya'akov as "yoshev oholim" (who dwelt in tents), the tent above as well as the tent below.


Finally, the Torah hints at Ya'akov Avinu in this capacity at Matan Torah, when it writes in Mishpatim (24:10)" and they saw the G-d of Yisrael, and beneath his feet ", an indication that Yisrael (Ya'akov) was placed underneath the Feet of Hashem, as we explained. And by the same token, Ya'akov's (rhetorical) question to Rachel "ha'sachas Elokim Anochi" (Am I in place of G-d)? can be understood as a statement "I am in the place of G-d!"


We cited earlier the Chazal, which equates all three Avos with the Merkavah. Yet all the above references are confined to Ya'akov, presumably, due to the fact that he is known as the 'B'chir she'ba'Ovos' - the greatest of the Avos, all of whose children were Tzadikim, which cannot be said about Avraham and Yitzchak.


Like the Dust of the Earth

"And your children will be like the dust of the earth" (28:14).

Simply put, G-d was issuing a promise to Ya'akov that his offspring will be numerous like the particles of dust.

But in that case, R. Bachye points out, He might just as well have said ' like the stars of the Heaven' (as indeed He does in a number of other places).

The reason that He used the Mashal of dust incorporates a disadvantage and an advantage. On the one hand, G-d was telling him that, bearing in mind that the current prophecy concerned Yisrael in Galus, as we explained earlier, like dust, they would be constantly trodden on and oppressed by the nations of the world; Whereas on the other, like the dust, He was assuring him, they would outlive their tormentors.

And history has proven this prophecy to be correct. Like no other nation on earth, Yisrael has been oppressed by its numerous tormentors, yet every nation that has started up with us - the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Medes, the Greeks and the Romans, has either disappeared or become insignificant, whilst we are still there - growing, thriving, always the centre of world attraction.

* * *


'And Ya'akov sent Naftali, who was a swift messenger (as swift as a gazelle), to call Rachel and Le'ah ' (31:4).


'And Rachel answered with the consent of Le'ah, and they said "Is it possible that we still have a portion " (31:14).


' Lavan went to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole the images They would slaughter a firstborn man and sever his head, which they would then preserve with salt and spices. They would write some magic script on a golden plate which they placed under his tongue. After being attached to the wall, it would then talk to them. And this was the image to which their father used to bow down' (31:19).


' and he made his way to the Mountain of Gal'ad, because he saw with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh that a salvation would occur there for his children in the days of Yiftach from Gil'ad' (31:21)


'After Ya'akov left, the shepherds arrived at the well and they did not find water. They waited three days in the hope that it would resume flowing, but it did not. So they informed Lavan on the third day, and he knew that Ya'akov had fled, since it was on his merits that the water had flowed for the past twenty years' (31:22).


' he gathered his relatives and chased after him and he caught up with him encamped on Mount Gil'ad thanking Hashem and praying to Him' (31:23).


' an Angel came at the command of Hashem, and drew his sword against Lavan the swindler in a dream of the night and said to him "Beware about speaking with Ya'akov " ' (31:24).


'And Lavan called it "Ogar Sahid", whereas Ya'akov called it in Lashon ha'Kodesh "Gal'ed" (31:27).



"And he arrived at the place {ba'mokom) (28:11).

The word "mokom" appears three times in this Pasuk; a hint, says the B'al ha'Turim, to the three times annually that Yisrael were destined to go there after the Beis-Hamikdash was built.


" Ki Bo Ha'shemesh" (because the sun had set)" (Ibid.)

The first letters of these three words spell 'kiboh' (he extinguished) hinting to the fact that Hashem made the sun set before its time (as Rashi explains) as if He had extinguished its light.


"And all that You give to me I will give one tenth to You:" (28:22).

Based on the fact that the double expression "aser a'asrenu" implies two tenths (the equivalent of a fifth), the Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the Gematriyah of "aser a'asrenu" is equivalent to 'Zeh kol ha'mevazvez, al yevazvez yoser mi'chomesh' (this is - [the principle] 'Whoever spends liberally (for Tzedakah) should not spend more than a fifth').


'And Ya'akov said to them "Do you know Lavan ben Nachor And they said "Sholom!" ' (29:6).

They did not say 'Sholom lo" (Peace be unto him'), in keeping with the Pasuk in Yeshayah (48:22) "There is no peace, says G-d, for the wicked".

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 429:
Not to Benefit from the Sacrifices of Avodah-Zarah

One is not permitted to take anything from an idol and add it to one's property in order to use it. It is in this connection that the Torah writes in Eikev (7:26) " do not bring an abomination into your house ".

A reason for the Mitzvah is to distance oneself from anything to do with loathsome Avodah-Zarah.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah are partially discussed in the third Perek of Avodah-Zarah. The Gemara in Pesachim (48a) rules that somebody who cooks with wood from an Avodah-Zarah grove is subject to two sets of Malkos - 1. because of the above La'av (not to bring an abomination into one's house), and 2. because of the La'av "And nothing shall cleave to you from the Cherem" (Re'ei 13:18), since they are two separate issues, the former, a prohibition against bringing Avodah-Zarah into one's house with the intention of benefiting from it, the latter a prohibition against deriving benefit (Hana'ah) from it. Both of these demonstrate an attraction to it, and he receives Malkos for each of them, as we explained. Despite the fact that they are both based on the same principle of Hana'ah, once he does benefit from it, he will receive two sets of Malkos. Like the author explained in Parshas Emor (in Mitzvah 294) regarding a Kohen Gadol who had relations with a widow, who receives two sets of Malkos, even though both La'avin are based on the same principle, as he explained there. This Isur incorporates the Avodah-Zarah itself, its accessories and whatever is offered to it in the form of a sacrifice. Nor does it make a difference as to whether the Avodah-Zarah belongs to a Jew or to a gentile. There is however, a difference between the latter two, inasmuch as the Avodah-Zarah of a gentile becomes forbidden the moment it is manufactured (as the Torah writes in Eikev "The images (P'silei eloheihem) you shall burn in fire" (7:25) - the moment he carves it; whereas that belonging to a Jew only becomes prohibited once he worships it, as the Torah writes in Ki Savo (27:15) "And he places it in a hidden location" (until he does things to it that one tends to do in secret). Also included in this La'av is not to add to the money (or possessions) with which G-d graced him, money (or articles) that has been stolen, held back from his employees, that comprises interest or through any other illegal means, all of which fall under the category of the accessories of Avodah-Zarah'.

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel