Wednesday, January 18, 2012

303 - Vayeitzei

In the beginning of the Parsha, the Torah recounts Yaakov's prophetic dream. "And behold there was a ladder set upon the ground and its head reached the Heavens" (Bereishis 28, 12). Rashi (ibid. 17) explains that the ladder was situated in Be'er Sheva, its midpoint was opposite the Bais Hamikdosh and its head reached Bais El. The Ramban disagrees and maintains that the bottom of the ladder was situated in the Bais Hamikdosh.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) cites the Maharal (Gur Aryeh) who elaborates on Rashi's explanation. Despite the fact that the Bais Hamikdosh was erected on Earth, nevertheless, it is also intimately connected to the Heavens. Chazal tell us that the Heavens were created with Hashem's "right hand" while the Earth was created with His "left hand." The "right hand" signifies chessed i.e. unlimited beneficence, since Hashem's kindness and benevolence are infinite. However, the "left hand" signifies din i.e. limited beneficence, since people are finite creatures and their ability to accept Hashem's great kindness is limited. The Bais Hamikdosh is the structure that unites the finite and the infinite. It is the conduit through which Hashem's unlimited kindness radiates to the rest of the Earth.

This is what Rashi intended when he explained that the Bais Hamikdosh was situated exactly halfway up the ladder. It is the structure that takes the chessed of the Heavens and the din of the Earth and unifies them into the perfect blend which allows for Hashem's infinite hashpa'ah to be felt by finite humans.

Rav Wolbe notes that all of our middos should parallel the Bais Hamikdosh in this aspect. As the Rambam (Shemoneh Perakim Chap. 4) writes, one's character traits should be fine tuned to function in accordance with "the golden mean." For example, one should not be overly bashful nor should he be brazen, rather, he should behave with a moderate temperament. In effect, such a person is taking the positive aspects of both bashfulness and brazenness, and blending them together into a perfectly balanced personality.

The significance of the placement of the ladder in Yaakov's dream was not limited to Yaakov himself. The lesson to be learned holds true for each and every one of us, each and every day, with each and every middah that we use.

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