Jacob makes a swift getaway to his uncle (and future fatherin-law) Lavan and his life undergoes a dramatic transformation.
Until this point, he has been depicted exclusively as a scholar, rather than dealing with the world’s harsh practical realities.
Upon resting, he experiences the famous dream of a ladder connecting heaven and earth with angelic figures travelling up and down.
Unlike Joseph and Pharaoh, whose dreams are interpreted in a specific manner, Jacob’s is never given an explanation in the text, but is discussed at length by the commentators.
As he prepares to immerse himself in a foreign environment, Jacob needs to learn an important lesson that is to become a cornerstone of Jewish thought.
The ladder has its head in the heavens; we are a people who live with lofty, Godly ideas and ideals. However, these ideas can and must be translated into this world, expressed as a life of action guided by ethics, morals and values.
This message is to become Jacob’s guiding light as he navigates the challenge of a father-in-law who seeks to deceive him at every turn.
Jacob displays an astuteness that enables him not only to survive, but also flourish with his integrity intact. This is how he can later tell his brother Esau that despite dwelling with Lavan, he has remained faithful to the Torah’s every detail and values.
The Torah never demands we withdraw from the physical world; rather, we seek to elevate ourselves so even the smallest of actions become purposeful. The ultimate way to do this is through the Torah, the Creator’s manual for a meaningful life.
Rabbi Naftali Schiff is founder and chief executive of Jewish Futures