Parashat Vayetzei – Yakov’s Ladder and Messiah

Many things in my head that can be revealed from this portion, so I will give a little glimpse of some of them and (for the sake of those who are not used with these methods) I’ll try to put my thoughts in order, and bring a further development for the main topic I want to focus on (which today is specially complicated). It is important to be open to the ‘70 faces of the Torah’ (ie. That one verse contains many valid interpretations and lots of wisdom).



After many years of living in the Holy Land, Yakov is exiled to Haran in order (1) to save his life from Esav and (2) to find a holy wife. So this week’s portion opens with the words:

”And he Went Out” – Vayetzei (Gn 28:10).


Yakov left Be’er Sheva and was on his way to Haran when he entered in what the Bible calls: “The Place” (baMakom). At night, Yakov “took of the stones (in plural) of that place, and put them at his head, and lay down in that place.”

Then he dreamed of a Ladder that reaches the Sky, with Angels ascending and descending, and God standing over him, blessing him with the Blessing of Abraham his father, and he exclaimed: This is the Gate of Heaven!. So he woke up, and anointed the “Stone” (in singular) which he had used for his pillow (cf. Gn 28:10-19).


What is Be’er Sheva? (באר שבע) Be’er Sheva represents holy knowledge (Binah). It’s the place in which the Wisdom of God is explained, as it’s written: “Moses began to explain (heb. Be’er – באר) this Torah” (Dt 1:5).

This is called: ‘Oral Torah’ or ‘Torah Sheva’al Peh’ – תורה שבע-ל פה , in the mystery of the words: “so he was Seven years in building it [ie. The Temple for God’s presence]” (1King 6:38). This [Temple] is the “Place (haMakom)” which God chose (Dt 17:8); as is written: “Al pi haTorah asher yorukha”; ‘On the oral Torah which they shall direct you’ (Dt 17:11).


Just as Yakov had to leave Be’er Sheva because he cheated on Esav, and judgment fell on him, Israel lost the Holy Temple because of sin and was exiled among the nations, as is written: “Judah is gone into exile because of affliction” (Lam 1:3).


“Haran” means wrath, strife. It’s in this place that Yakov beget 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel. Our soul too, in order to reach transcendental significance must descend to Haran, the world conquered by the material and the struggles, with the purpose to build a “dwelling for God in the physical world” (cf. Rebbe Schneerson). So too we learn with this that Israel’s exile was in order to make the whole world a dwelling place for God. How so? Because Israel is a Light to the nations and thanks to their exile all the nations of the world have come to know the existence of One only God, his Holy Word, the Torah, the concept of Messiah and many other concepts that otherwise would be foreigner to the gentile/pagan nations. Because Israel was spread all around the world, so too the Divine Presence was spread all around the world, so too the Light of God was spread all around the World.


The Ladder and Sinai


And he entered in the place” (Gn 28:11). What is this “Place” (ie. Makom)? Makom represents the Holy City, the City of God, Jerusalem, as it’s written: “he saw haMakom in the distance” (Gn 22:4; cf. Sanh 95b). Incidentally ‘Makom’ is one of God’s names, as it’s written: ”Hineh, Makom iti” (Behold, the Place is with me) (Ex 33:21); which means that God is the Place of the world. Everything exists within Him and that’s why we call Him: haMakom (the Place). This implies that Yakov not only reached a physical place. He also entered in God’s Presence.


And Behold, HaShem stood above him” (Gn 28:13). Above what? Some say above the ladder, but in our approach he stood above Yakov [who had laid his head on the Stone, for it’s written: “I will stand before you there, upon the Rock in Horeb” (Ex 17:6)].

In which way HaShem stood above Yakov? In the way a King rides a chariot. Yakov saw himself as the chariot (Merkava) of God on earth, and the verse: “I am the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac” make us notice that the 3 Patriarchs form together a unique chariot by which all the world gets closer to God, as God promised to Abraham (and then to Yakov): “In you and in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gn 28:14). This is what the Mekubalim call: ‘the arrangement of the Sefirot’, and ‘the Three pillars’. Yakov emerges and is sustained by Abraham and Yakov as the verse alludes: “Abraham your father and… Isaac”. This means that Yakov is the middle pillar.


‘And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven’ (Gn 28:12).


The Ladder connects above and below. And what is this connection? The mount Sinai where Heaven and Earth were connected and the Holy Torah was given to Israel. The word “Ladder” – ‘Sulam’ equals in Gematria the word “Sinai”.


סלם = סיני = 130


The Torah at Sinai is a covenant between God above and Israel below. “Angels ascending and descending” (Gn 28:12). What are Angels? Messengers (Malakhim). Who are the messengers who ascended Sinai to get the Torah and descended to give it to Israel? Moses and Aaron.


Our sages taught:


“He who fulfills One Command acquires for himself One Advocate-angel, and he who commits one transgression acquires against himself one prosecuting angel.” (Pirkei Avot 4:11; Avot 4:13).


Specifically, whenever we turn our Intention towards God through Prayer, we are also sending an angel. This is better understood if we realize that in this multidimensional Universe we live in, physical deeds also imply spiritual deeds and they cannot be separated. The Living Creatures in the world of Yetzirah (the world of emotions/formation) are called “Angels”; and are totally linked to our very deeds as human beings. Angels carry information from above to below, or from below to above, which is why are called: Messengers.

This is a secret hidden in the words: “And Yakov sent messengers before him to Esav his brother” (Gn 32:4 [3]); literally: “Yakov sent angels”, for a couple verses prior this one it’s written: “Yakov went on his way and the angels of God met him” (‘for He will command his angels to guard you in all your ways’; Psalm 91:11) (cf. Zohar I:166a).


All these thoughts are connected by the verses:

“The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his Sanctity. You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive; you have received gifts from men, even from the rebellious – that you Lord God might dwell there” (Psalm 68:18-19 [17-18]).


So, this dream represents so many things, and all of them are truth; this portion represent Moses and Aaron giving the Torah at Sinai; it represents the path of the soul, it represents Israel’s exile, it represents the good deeds of Yakov and also the way the Prayers are being sent and answered… in all cases, the Ladder is the most important connection between Above and Below.


The Stones and Messiah


The stones were many prior to the dream, but became one single stone after the dream. All were merged into one (cf. Hulin 91b).


I am the God of Beit-El, where you did anoint a pillar, where you did vow a vow to Me” (Gn 31:13).


In this portion we find the first grammatical allusion (Remez) to “Messiah” in the Bible. “Where you did anoint a pillar”, –

“asher Mashakhta sham Matzeva” –

 אשר משחת שם מצבה


Now, as we have seen, there are many connections that must be done. Yakov lays his head in some stones. He has a dream of a Ladder with angels, which represent many things, as explained above. He wakes up, and on his head there’s only one big stone, which he anoints with oil, and then he calls that place: Beit-El (House of Might; or House of the Mighty).


As we have seen, The ‘Ladder’ was connected to the ‘Sinai’, where Moses received the Torah and gave it to Israel. How many stones there were? Tradition says they were 12; as alluded in the verse: ‘the stones will be… twelve… according to the twelve tribes’; Ex 28:21), and we are gonna take this approach.

The Torah says when this Rock became One, Yakov put Oil on its head (Rosh). The Head of Israel is the Messiah (the anointed one).


Every spiritual “Head” of Israel is a Messiah (ie. consecrated by being anointed with oil). Aaron and the priests are ‘anointed ones’ (Ex 30:30), the Prophets are ‘anointed’ ones (1Ki 19:16), the kings are ‘anointed ones’ (1S 16:12; 1Ki 1:39).

But the King Messiah is the “Head” of them all, and represents them all.

Just as Moses represents the whole Israel, Messiah represents the whole Israel, even in a higher level than Moses. For it’s written about Moses: “Be for the people (lo Am) in front of God” (Ex 18:19).  And then: “I will raise them up a prophet like you” (Dt 18:18), and when Joshua became the leader it’s written: “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses” (Dt 24:10). And about Messiah it’s told: “He will be raised and highly exalted” (Is 52:13); meaning, he towers above the patriarchs, and Moses and the ministering angels (cf. Midrash Tanhuma Toldot).


 “And you must make a breastplate of judgment… and you must set in it rows of stonesThe Stones must be twelve, according to the sons of Israel, according to their names… ” (Ex 28:15-21).


The Hebrew word for breastplate is “Hoshen” – חשן – and in Gematria it equals the word “Messiah” (Mashiakh).


חשן = משיח = 358


Unification – Yikhud


The main picture of this story is that of Unification. There’s an Upper Unity and a Lower Unity in the scene. The Upper Unity is the Ladder that connects Heaven and Earth. The Lower Unity are the stones that become one under Yakov’s head. Unity is the great deal in the Bible. The Decalogue consists of 10 utterances; half of them are between God and man, and the other half between a man and his neighbour. Messiah’s duty is to bring absolute Unity (Yekhida). An Upper Unity, as Messiah brings the whole world to a perfect unity with the Creator and His Holy Word. This is supported by the verse: “In that day there will be one Lord, and his name one” (Zac 14:9), and also: “Earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Is 11:9). And a Lower Unity, as all Israel attains her unification through the soul of Messiah, the exiles back home and the whole world is unified. This is supported by the verse:  “he shall… gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Is 11:2).

This idea is also hinted in the way the Messiah comes. The Messiah comes in both ways, with the clouds of Heaven and riding a donkey. The word ‘Heaven’ implies ‘spirituality’, and the word for ‘Donkey’ – in Hebrew ‘Hamor’ – is made with the same letters of the word: Materiality – ‘Homer’, and of course, in Gematria are equal.


חמור = חומר = 254


No wonder that the two greater commands in the Torah according to the school of Hillel are the one that brings Unity between man and God and the one that brings Unity between man and man: “Loving God” (Dt 6:5) which is the first essential command, that must be obeyed even on risk of our very own life, as is written: “With all your life” (Dt 6:5), and ‘Loving our neighbour as ourselves’ (Lv 19:18, 34) which is the heart of the Torah (cf. Sifra 2:12;  Shab 31a).


Yakov said: “This stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house” (Gn 28:22).


Yakov set that Stone, or Rock to be God’s house. What is that Rock? The community of Israel led in unity by the Messiah, who is their head. This is the secret in the words: “You are my servant, Israel, I will be glorified in you… It is too small thing for you to be my Servant to restore the tribes of Yakov and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the gentiles, that you bring my salvation to the ends of the Earth” (Is 49:6); which can be compared to:


In you and in your seed all the families of the Earth will be blessed” (Gn 28:14).


The word: “will be Blessed” (Venivrekhuונברכו ) is written in a niphal form, a very rare form for the verb “to Bless” (barakh); and in this way, the verb can be understood as “Engraft” instead of “Bless”. The Blessings (Berakhot), can also mean the “shoots”; from the word:Lehibrikhלהבריך (To engraft [a shoot in a tree]). This basically means that all the nations of the Earth are engrafted in Yakov (ie. Israel) and his seed (cf. Yevamot 63a). Again, this implies Unification.


The ‘Seed of Yakov’ through which all the nations are engrafted is, in a sense, the Jewish nation, as it’s written: “You are my servant Israel… I will give you for a light to the nations” (Is 42:6), but specifically it’s also the Messiah, the Head of Israel, as it’s written: “There shall be a root of Yisai, which shall stand for a sign of the people, to him the Gentiles will seek” (Is 11:10). For ‘the heart of the King is the collective heart of the nation’ (cf. Hilkhot Melakhim 3:6). He is the ‘Seed of Yakov’ through Judah (Gn 49:10), through King David, as it’s written: “I will raise up your seed… and I will establish his Kingdom… he will build me a House and I will establish his throne forever” (1Chr 17:11-12).


Notice the connection with the words: “he will build me a house” and Yakov’s sentence: “this stone… shall be God’s house”.

So if the Seed of Abraham was Isaac, and the seed of Isaac was Yakov, the seed of Yakov is Messiah, as it’s written:


Endow… the Royal Son with your RighteousnessHis name endures forever; before the Sun Yinon is his name, and in him all the nations will be blessed” (Psalm 72:1, 17).


In him, this is, in Yinon (ie. The Messiah), all the nations (ie. All the gentiles) will be blessed; meaning, the promise given to Abraham and Yakov will be fulfilled in him. And this is what Yakov saw in his dream; The World reaching a spiritual Unity and acceptance of God’s Word by that spiritual Ladder that connects it all; the soul of Messiah.


Metatron and the Ladder


28-sacroThe Zohar (parashat Vayetzei) says that the Ladder is Metatron (The singular Angel of HaShem), who also is the “House of God”; as it’s written: “My Name is within him” (Ex 23:21), and through him all the angels, prayers and blessing ascend and descend. [‘My name is within him’ can also be understood as he having God’s Name, ie. the tetragrama Yod-Kei-Vav-Kei; cf. Rashi]

Incidentally the word Metatron in Hebrew derives from the word: Matara – מטרא, keeper, watcher.

So Metatron is called the Gate through which one passes to come within, as is written: ‘Open to me the gate of Righteousness, I will go in to them and I will praise Yah [Yod – Hei]’ (Ps 118:19), and “This is the gate to Hashem [Yod –Kei- Vav – Kei]” (118:20). This [Gate of Righteousness, Gate to HaShem] is the ‘Gate of Heaven’ (Gn 28:17).


Using this same logic, the Zohar says:


Every petition sent to the King, must be through Metatron. Every message and petition from here below, must first go to Metatron, and from thence to the king. Metatron is the Mediator of all that comes from heaven down to the earth, or from the earth up to heaven. And because he is the mediator of all, it is written ‘And the Angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed’ [Ex 14:19]; that is, before Israel which is above. This Angel of God is the same of whom it is written ‘And Y-H-V-H went before them… [Ex. 13:21] to go by day and by night’” (Zohar Shemot II:51).


The Great Metatron is not an angelical being per-se, although is called: ‘Angel’; and is not a man, even though sometimes he is called a ‘youth man’. It is the name with which we refer the visual manifestation of God [as it is manifested from the World of Angels to our World]; This Metatron is not a created being, but an emanation that gets filtered within creation (cf. Tikunei Zohar 67 p.130). In its Greek meaning: ‘Metatron’ means: ‘After the throne’ or ‘About the Throne’ or Abstractly/Conceptually linked to it, acting according to it.

This etymology is used in Sefer Heikhalot where it is written: “The Holy One… made for me a throne like the throne of Glory” (Heikhalot 10:1).

Metatron in Gematria equals ‘Shaddai’ (the name by which God was known to the patriarchs).


ש-די = מטטרון = 314


His voice is God’s word (cf. Ex 23:22). He serves as the angelic link between God’s energy and the spiritual energy of human beings who are seeking to grow closer to God. Thus he is called: “the Minister of the Presence”, or “Minister of the Shekhinah [the Divine Presence]” and also ‘the Body of the King’s Daughter’ (cf. Zohar Shemot II:94b).



This is conceptually very important for our case, since Metatron, as the minister of the Presence shows God in multiple ways, as the Zohar states, in the stuff of Moses, in the column of fire, in the ascending of Enoch… and of course Messiah is the highest human manifestation of this spiritual force.


Because of Metatron it is written: “hear his voice and do what I speak” (Ex 23:22), and again: “My Name is within him” (Ex 23:21).

And of Messiah it is written: “hear my words which he shall speak in my Name” (Dt 18:19).

So the great Hillel Rivlin wrote that Metatron “is the angel of Messiah ben Yosef” (Kol haTor 2). By this comparison, we deduce that the Ladder hints to Messiah ben Yosef too.

-Xus Casal (2013)

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