“And Yakov dreamt, and behold a ladder was set earthward and its top was reaching heavenward; and behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it. And G-d was standing over him (Yakov) and G-d said, “I am G-d, the G-d of Avraham and G-d of Yitzchak. The ground upon which you are lying, to you I will give it and to your descendants” (Gen. 28 V.12-13).
This prophecy took place as Yakov was leaving the borders of Israel and entering the borders of Charan (he was entering Charan for the purpose of finding a wife). G-d also showed him in this prophecy the borders of Israel which his children would eventually inherit. The ladder symbolized several things, amongst them, that his descendants would one day receive the Torah at Sinai, and they would one day serve in the Temple.
What does it mean that G-d was standing over him, and why at this particular time did Yakov merit to receive this detailed prophecy of the future?
At this point in his life, Yakov was at a crossroads. Until now he had been living in the shadow of the Torah. Until age sixty three, he had lived at home where he was called “a man who dwelled in the tents” (referring to the tents of Torah study). After he was forced to run away, due to fear of being killed by Esav, he stayed in the school of Shem and Ever for fourteen years. Their school was the first devoted to the study of G-d’s laws (these were the laws handed down orally from Noach).
Now Yakov was entering a different period of life. It was a period fraught with the unknown. Yakov had a fear of leaving the tents of Torah study, of the study of G-d to enter what is known as the “real world”. The rest of Yakov’s life would be filled with difficulties. These next few years would be particularly hard, when Yakov would be forced to deal with the unscrupulous Lavan and constantly struggle just to support his family. Yakov was frightened; now that he was leaving the comfort of Torah study, would he still have his relationship with G-d?
It is at this point that G-d appears to him to reassure him. It is not that Yakov is leaving his study of G-d to enter the real world, but it is precisely the study of G-d’s laws that are the real world. And G-d is showing him, that although the angels that accompanied you in Israel are leaving you, different angels will now accompany you, and the ultimate goals, the goal of fathering children who will be the forerunners of a people who are devoted to G-d , a people who will one day receive the Torah and be a beacon of light to the world, are still as viable as ever. Yakov was now leaving the real world, and entering into exile.
The reason Yakov was able to endure all the future hardships of this exile was precisely his study of the Torah. That is what enabled him to be the man he was.
And when Yakov awakens the next morning he says: “G-d is present in this place, and I did not know!” He did not know that G-d would still be with him, as he had been with him until now, and he understood that he only merited this close relationship with G-d because of the Torah he had studied.
The Jewish people and the entire world are at a critical juncture right now. We hope and pray that America does not acquiesce to the evil wishes of the Arab world, and betray Israel. It would serve us well to remember our forefather Yakov and remember what it was that allowed him to go on in his exile, and what will allow us to go forward in ours: devotion to G-d’s law.