"...and he lay down in that place."
"If you only set your mind to it..."
Yaakov avinu - our forefather Jacob - left town (Be'er Sheva) in a hurry, and apparently with some unfinished business. It was clear that his mother Rivka possessed a greater insight into Yaakov than did his father Yitzchak. But it would seem that Yaakov himself longed to gain greater understanding of his father. And so, as he fled from his brother Esau, Yaakov paused along the way at "that place." (ibid) And what place was "that place?" It was, as Yaakov knew, the place upon which his father Yitzchak had been bound upon the altar by his father Avraham. It was clear to Yaakov that this was the transforming moment in his father's life, and now he wanted to achieve a greater understanding of his father.
So Yaakov gathered beneath his head the very stones that had made up the altar on that fateful day in his father's life, and laid his head upon them. The dream that Yaakov dreamed, of a ladder planted firmly on the earth and extending to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it, and G-d standing over him, was Yaakov's reliving of his father's experience on the altar at Mount Moriah. Yaakov had transformed the one-time, visceral, life and death experience of Yitzchak into a vision that could, (and would), transcend the generations.
The significance of his dream wasn't lost on Yaakov, who arose and declared, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven." (ibid 28:17) Nor was the significance of his dream lost on the very stones upon which he had slept, for they too, according to Midrash, united themselves from twelve stones into one single stone, which Yaakov then "set it up as a monument, and he poured oil on top of it." (ibid 28:18) The twelve stones were symbolic of the twelve as-yet unborn sons of Yaakov, the twelve progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Only when the twelve tribes are united as one will the "house of G-d" be built, and will mankind reach "the gate of heaven."
"'Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed!'" (ibid 27:27) With these words Yitzchak blessed Yaakov. The "fragrance of a field" our sages teach us, is, in fact the "fragrance" of Eden, which Yitzchak had experienced during his binding on Mount Moriah. This fragrance would later be embodied by the ketoret incense of the Divine service, just as the altar upon which Yitzchak was bound, and upon whose stones Yaakov slept, would become the great stone altar of the Temple courtyard, and whose purpose would be to bring man closer to G-d, the ladder, as it were "set up on the ground and its top reaching the heavens." (ibid 28:12) Only after experiencing this vision and establishing the foundation stone of the future Holy Temple, did Yaakov allow himself to think again of his own safety, and continue on his journey.
Today, there are still those who insist we must have "rocks in our head" when we talk openly about the existential need (of all mankind) to rebuild the Holy Temple. Perhaps we should take it as a compliment, for it certainly recalls the night when Yaakov laid his head upon the rocks and upon waking, articulated for all time the desire of man and G-d to meet, to confront, and to be as one on this sacred place - the place of the Holy Temple.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman, exhausted but overjoyed to be back home in the Land of Israel, along with special guest host Yosef Adest, (filling in for Yitzchak Reuven who is currently in the USA), shares his experiences and impressions. The Rabbi and his wife traveled extensively throughout America teaching Torah, and were inspired by the many Righteous Gentiles he met during his trip, who study Torah and take a bold stand for Hashem, Torah and Israel. Having been traveling through America during, and immediately following the massacre perpetrated by an American-born Muslim US solider against his fellow soliders, Rabbi Richman shares his impressions and concerns over America’s future.
This week's TEMPLE TALK is only one part.