Recommended Posts

Toledot Yaakov Yosef: Vayeitzei: The World as a Ladder

The world in general is called one Partzuf, or, one aspect of the Divine Countenance. Common people are its legs, and the righteous, its eyes, as they are called, “the eyes of the assembly (Leviticus 4:13).”


Thus it is said that the world in general is called a “ladder,” as it is written, “And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (Genesis 28:12).” Common people are “set upon the earth,” inasmuch as they are called the legs of the world, and the righteous, as its head or eyes, are those who “reach to heaven.” And since all of them combined constitute a completed configuration and a single entity, therefore the “Angels of God,” namely, the righteous who have not betrayed the mission assigned to them by their Creator, “ascend on it.”

That is to say, a generation whose deeds are proper stimulates its leaders to ascend even higher. So was it at Mount Sinai, where we are told, “And Israel encamped there before the mount (Exodus 19:2),” meaning that they rested in penance, and then, “Moses ascended unto God (Exodus 19:3).”

The converse is equally true: when the generation’s deeds are improper, the righteous descend, Heaven forbid, as our sages said of Shmuel haKatan, that he merited that the Shechinah should rest on him but his generation was not fit for this (Sotah 48b). For in that case, the ladder which represents the totality of the world’s common people serves as a means of descent for the righteous. For just as when a man’s legs are lowered into a pit, the head too is lowered and when his legs are planted on a mountain his headed is raised even higher, so it was with the effect of the spiritual state of the masses upon the righteous. (Toledot Yaakov Yosef, Vayeitzei)

Go Back to Previous Page

  • Other visitors also read