Avodat Yisrael: Vayeitzei: Preparing for Redemption
It is the way of the righteous that when he is distressed or in exile, he is not preoccupied with his own soul’s anguish but is concerned because the souls of Israel are the limbs of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, and in all likelihood the Shechinah is impaired. It is about this that the righteous person protests.
Thus, when Jacob was compelled to flee from his brother Esau in Beer-Sheba, we read, “and he went toward Haran (Genesis 28:1).” This means that he sensed the advent of wrath [Haran is related to Haron, meaning, anger] the attribute of judgment. Our sages already indicated that all four exiles were hinted to Jacob in his dream, the severest of them being the last destruction, that of the Second Temple, of which we have no foreknowledge as to the time of redemption.
As is well known, the First Temple correspondence to Abraham, and the Second, to Isaac. The Third Temple corresponds to Jacob, the most perfect of the patriarchs, whose “bed was complete (Pesachim 56a),” and it will never be destroyed.
It was taught: “Neither like Abraham, who called the site of the Temple a mountain, nor like Isaac, who described the site as a field, but like Jacob, who referred to it as a house (Pesachim 88a).” This is alluded to in the verse, “And Jacob awoke from his sleep and he was afraid (Genesis 28:16–17).” When he foresaw the length of the last exile, he was seized with fear, wondering, when will the final redemption occur?
“And he said, This is none other than… The gate of heaven,” meaning that he consoled himself with the thought that in all probability this destruction was a prelude to the Third Temple, which is called the fixed abode for all eternity; and proportional to the magnitude of the light of redemption is the magnitude of the destruction and exile which precedes it.
That is why this last exile is so long and endless, to teach us that the future redemption will be of boundless and unlimited radiance.
This is the meaning of the verse, “And behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12).” The problem of the ascent preceding the descent is commented upon by Rashi. Another answer is that when the Children of Israel dwell in their land, fulfilling the will of their Creator, then the Celestial Chariot is conducted in accordance with their actions, and all the worlds receive their Divine Grace in the proper order through the Children of Israel, who become the conduit for this Divine Grace. When Israel is in a lowly state, however, heaven forbid, the reverse occurs, and it is the nations of the world that received the primary Divine Grace, while we receive the remnant.
It is for this reason that our sages state, “Israel in exile worship idols in purity (Avodah Zarah 8a).” This means that when Israel has to obtain Divine Grace by means of the Guardian Angels of the other nations, it is regarded as comparable to idolatry, for the Children of Israel should derive sustenance directly from their Father’s table. The nations of the world, upon receiving divine grace directly as a result of Israel’s lonely plight, imagine that they are in the ascent, but actually it is a descent, for the order of the flow of Divine Grace should only be evoked by those who perform God’s will. (Avodat Yisrael, Vayeitzei)