Sunday, February 3, 2013
Jacob's Ladder (Hebrew: Sulam Yaakov סולם יעקב) is a ladder to heaven that the biblical Patriarch Jacob dreams about during his flight from his brother Esau. It is described in the Book of Genesis.
The description of Jacob's ladder appears in Genesis 28:10-19,
Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it [or "beside him"] and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you." Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Afterwards, Jacob names the place, "Bethel" (literally, "House of God").
The classic Torah commentaries offer several interpretations of Jacob's ladder. According to the Midrash, the ladder signified the exiles which the Jewish people would suffer before the coming of the Messiah. First the angel representing the 70-year exile of Babylonia climbed "up" 70 rungs, and then fell "down". Then the angel representing the exile of Persia went up a number of steps, and fell, as did the angel representing the exile of Greece. Only the fourth angel, which represented the final exile of Rome/Edom (whose guardian angel was Esau himself), kept climbing higher and higher into the clouds. Jacob feared that his children would never be free of Esau's domination, but God assured him that at the End of Days, Edom too would come falling down.
Another interpretation of the ladder keys into the fact that the angels first "ascended" and then "descended". The Midrash explains that Jacob, as a holy man, was always accompanied by angels. When he reached the border of the land of Canaan (the future land of Israel), the angels who were assigned to the Holy Land went back up to Heaven and the angels assigned to other lands came down to meet Jacob. When Jacob returned to Canaan he was greeted by the angels who were assigned to the Holy Land.
The place at which Jacob stopped for the night was in reality Mount Moriah, the future home of the Temple in Jerusalem. The ladder therefore signifies the "bridge" between Heaven and earth, as prayers and sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple soldered a connection between God and the Jewish people. Moreover, the ladder alludes to the giving of the Torah as another connection between heaven and earth. The Hebrew word for ladder, sulam (סלם) and the name for the mountain on which the Torah was given, Sinai (סיני) have the same gematria (numerical value of the letters).
The Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher Philo Judaeus, born in Alexandria, (d. ca. 50 CE) presents his allegorical interpretation of the ladder in the first book of his De somniis. There he gives four interpretations, which are not mutually exclusive:
The angels represent souls descending to and ascending from bodies (some consider this to be Philo's clearest reference to the doctrine of reincarnation).
In the second interpretation the ladder is the human soul and the angels are God's logoi, pulling the soul up in distress and descending in compassion.
In the third view the dream depicts the ups and downs of the life of the "practiser" (of virtue vs. sin).
Finally the angels represent the continually changing affairs of men.
A hilltop overlooking the Israeli settlement of Beit El north of Jerusalem that is believed by some to be the site of Jacob's dream is a tourist destination during the holiday of Sukkoth.
Woh Akar Todte Hain Ham Wapas Ghar Ko Jodte Hain, a photo by firoze shakir photographerno1 on Flickr.
jab unki gadi
dehi ham jaldi
se saman lekar
lived with us
now he is dead
buried in a plot
a little ahead
or a roof
no table or chairs
no clutter no mess
a house is a home
that god bless
in tattered clothes
baby in new dress
of the poetry
of his thoughts
a few words
he let go
a few words
in a butterfly
net he had
god given shot
a beggar poet
back and forth
the many times
hope iron wrought
her strength that
he sought she
left him behind
a new destiny
she in her
of a bright
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