parashas Vayeitzei 5782
“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of G-d ascending and descending on it.”
– Genesis 28:12, JPS 1917 Tanach
Prayer is a means of communication, between man and G-d – a connection between earth and heaven. The gateway to G-d’s abode in Heaven was revealed to Jacob. “And, behold, the L-RD stood beside him, and said; ‘I am the L-RD, the G-d of Abraham thy father, and the G-d of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed” (Genesis 28:13). In addition to this promise, H’Shem also reassured Jacob, that He would safeguard him, and bring him back into the land (Genesis 28:15).
The place of Jacob’s revelation was none other than the place, mentioned earlier in Torah, where Abraham brought up Isaac as an offering. Mt. Moriah, the place where Isaac was bound, is also where Jacob dreamt of a ladder reaching towards Shomayin (Heaven). When he awoke, he said, “this is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17, JPS 1917 Tanach).
Rashi comments, based upon Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, on the verse, and this is the gate of heaven, a place where prayers would ascend to heaven (sefaria.org). Jacob saw angels of G-d ascending and descending upon the ladder in his dream. The question may be asked, if these are angels of G-d, why are they first ascending and then descending? One response, according to Sforno, is that these angels ascending towards Heaven represent prayers, and the angels that are descending from heaven represent the answers to those prayers.
Additionally, the place where Jacob dreamt of the ladder, Mt. Moriah is also where the Beis HaMikdash (Temple; literally, House of the Sanctuary) was eventually built in Jerusalem. Genesis Rabbah comments that the Heavenly Temple is directly above the earthly Temple, therefore the temple in Jerusalem served as the gateway to the Heavenly Temple (Genesis Rabbah on Genesis 28:17).
Today, it is still acknowledged that all of our prayers ascend to Heaven from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. R. Bachya notes that the word zeh (this), as in this must be the gate of heaven, occurs three times in the passage, an allusion to the three Temples. The first and second Temples were destroyed; yet, we await the rebuilding of the third Temple, and the era of peace that will be brought with the establishment of Malchus Elokim (the Kingdom of G-d).
Baruch shem k’vod malchuso l’olam va’ed.
Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever.