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Torah Portion


Home > Torah Portion > Torah Portion Vayetze



Torah Portion Vayetze
Dec.8, 2000 11 Kislev, 5761 by Rabbi Stephen M Wylen

TORAH

(Jacob) had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sy, and angels of God were going up and down on it. (Gen. 28:12)

RASHI

The angels first went up and then went down (not what we would expect of angels, who should be coming down from heaven first, then going back up.) The explanation is as follows: The angels who accompanied Jacob in the Land of Israel never depart from the Land, so they went back up into the firmament. Then the angels for outside the Land of Israel came down to accompany Jacob on the rest of his journey.

COMMENT - RABBI ZVI MORGENSTERN OF LOMZA

We may indeed say that the angels first "went up", because on the very spot where Jacob was sleeping, that is the spot where the Temple was later built, the Temple which is the dwelling place of God's presence on earth. Even the angels who normally reside in heaven, when they come to this holy place on earth, it can be said of them that they have risen to a higher station. In similar fashion our Sages interpreted the verse from Deuteronomy, "it is not in heaven", meaning that no part of the Torah remains in heaven, for every bit of it was handed over to Moses and Israel at Mt. Sinai. (Itturei Torah ad loc.)

LESSON

Rabbi Zvi Morgenstern reminds us that earth is holier than heaven. Earth is the place where God is revealed. This is true in at least two senses. One, the Torah is found on earth and not in heaven. Two, surprisingly enough, God is more present on earth than in heaven, because God has chosen a spot on earth for the divine Presence to reside.Where is that place of God's Presence on earth? It is the holy Temple Mount, the site of the Holy of Holies. At this time of political controversy in the Middle East, it is good for us to remember the sanctity of Jerusalem in Jewish eyes. Let not our desire to distance ourselves from the political goals of the Israeli right wing detract in any way from our passion for Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Let us not lose the confidence of our faith in the face of Palestinian propaganda. The mosque on the Temple Mount is holy to Moslems because it is a mosque, not because it is on the Temple Mount. Moslems who pray in that mosque turn their backs on the Holy of Holies and face toward Mecca, the Moslem holy city. Only to Jews is the Temple Mount the very gateway to heaven. And as our commentary reminds us, Jerusalem is in some ways more than the gateway to heaven - as God's residence, Jerusalem is even closer to the divine Presence than heaven would be. Let us remember, then, these two lessons: Love for the Land of Israel, for Jerusalem, and for the place where the Temple stood. Judaism calls upon us to sanctify life on earth, where we have the Torah and God's presence to guide us.













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