Stairway to HeavenBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Yaakov departed Be’er-Sheva and headed for Charan. He came to a particular place, where he camped for the night. (Rashi tells us that this place was Mount Moriah, as both are called simply “the place.”) He made a pillow from some stones. While he slept, Yaakov had a prophetic vision of a ladder reaching towards Heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. In his vision, G-d was metaphorically “standing over” him. G-d told Yaakov that He would give him and his descendants the land that he was on. Yaakov’s descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the Earth and they would spread out in all four directions. (Verse 14 includes the words sung as the song “U’faratzta.”) The people of the world would be blessed through Yaakov’s descendants. G-d said that He would be with Yaakov and protect him. He would bring Yaakov back to this land and He would not depart until after His promise would be fulfilled.
When Yaakov awoke, he realized he was in a holy place, a metaphorical gateway to Heaven. He took the stone from beneath his head and made a makeshift altar of it, anointing it with oil to G-d. Yaakov named the place Beth El (“House of G-d”) and he swore a vow that if G-d takes care of his physical needs (food, clothing, security, etc.) and returns him safely, then he would be uniquely associated with G-d. The stone Yaakov established would be the foundation of G-d’s Temple and Yaakov would dedicate a tenth of all he has to G-d.