Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Vayeitze - 5772
ANGELS ASCENDING AND DESCENDING
In the beginning of this week‟s Parasha, during his flight from his brother Esav, Yaakov sleeps, dreams and sees a vision of a ladder with its feet on the ground that stretches up to the heavens, with angels ascending and descending on it.
The vision is quite different from what we would have expected: angels should first be described as coming down from Heaven and then going back up. According to the Midrash, the ladder signified the exile which the Jewish people would suffer before the coming of the Moshiach. The Midrash elaborates upon the dream and notes that first the angel, representing the 70 year exile of Babylonia, climbed "up" 70 rungs and then fell "down". Then the angel, representing the exile of Persia, went up a number of steps and fell, as did the angel representing the exile of Greece. Only the fourth angel, which represented the final exile of Rome/Edom, kept climbing higher and higher into the clouds. Yaakov feared that his children would never be free of Esav's domination but God assured him that at the End of Days, Edom, too, would come falling down.
Others note that the place at which Yaakov stopped for the night was in reality Mount Moriah, the future home of the Beit Hamikdash. The ladder, therefore, signifies the "bridge" between Heaven and earth. The ascending angels represented the prayers and sacrifices offered in the Beit Hamikdash, while the descending ones represented the Torah that Hashem teaches, which originates in Yerushalaim.