Shabbat Parashat Vayetzei | 5763
Different Angels, Different DreamsRabbi Macy Gordon
“And behold a ladder was standing on Earth with its top reaching into the Heavens, and behold the angels of the Lord going up and coming down thereon” (Bereishit 28:12). The image of Ya’akov’s dream has been portrayed in many works of art and as a well-known Biblical story to children beginning to study Torah. Not all are aware that our parasha tells of second dream that Ya’akov had a full twenty years later, which was very different from the first.
Ya’akov’s first dream takes place on the first night after he fled the wrath of his brother Eisav. His fear strengthened his faith in G-d. The influence of his parental home enveloped him. His thinking and his very existence was G-d-centered. Twenty years later, twenty years of chutz la’aretz in the milieu of Lavan and his sons, twenty years away from Yitzchak and Rivka, Ya’akov was now a husband to four wives, a father to eleven children. He had concerns for his material future, for supporting his family. He finally forced the issue of proper compensation and severance from his father-in-law. He had a dream in which he saw flocks of sheep, enough to secure his economic future, and ways to manipulate transfer of an appropriate proportion for himself. G-d appears to him and says, “I see what Lavan has done to you. It’s time to go back to your father’s house.” Twenty years earlier Ya’akov dreamed of angels. Now he dreams of sheep. Twenty years earlier he too stood on the ground, but his head was in the Heavens. Now, his concerns are more material, down-to-earth realities. This is what Lavan had “done to him.” When you live a long time in a society with certain values, you are bound to be influenced by your surroundings. The great Ya’akov, Patriarch of Israel, was no exception.
Our sages noted the wording of Ya’akov’s first dream: “the angels were going up and going down.” One would have expected that angels, whose abode is in Heaven would come down before going up. Our sages grapsed the metaphor of angels to suggest that Ya’akov was always guided by G-d’s angels. While in Eretz Yisrael, he had angels guiding his needs there. As he was to leave Israel and venture into chutz la’aretz, he needed a different kind of angel as his guide. The “Eretz Yisrael” angels went up, and the angels for “chutz la’aretz” came down.
As Ya’akov learned (and haven’t we all) you need a different kind of guarding angel in Israel than in the Diaspora. The challenges are so different. Even the dreams are very different.
Ya’akov, who left Israel for Aram, could not help but be influenced by his environment in the Diaspora. All of us who have come from the Diaspora, whether from Ethiopia or Russia, the Far East or Anglo-Saxon countries, were guided to face the challenges there, and we came here. But the challenges that we meet here in Israel are of a different kind and require “special” guarding angels to help us meet them. So many young Israeli’s have tragically picked up and adopted the values that we thought we left behind. Prayerfully, we hope that we will adopt the values that are spiritually unique to Eretz Yisrael, retaining the best of both of our worlds.
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