The Portal To Heaven

12 Kislev 5781                               By Rabino Iosef Chemi

Today we are going to look at Parashat Vayetze. I want to read Bereshit, Genesis chapter 28 pasuk, verse 17   יִּירָא, וַיֹּאמַר, מַה-נּוֹרָא, הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה:  אֵין זֶה, כִּי אִם-בֵּית אֱלֹהִים, וְזֶה, שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם. “And he was afraid and said: ‘How awesome is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ 

As you know, Jacob runs away because Esav wants to kill him. At Rivka’s request, Isaac sends Jacob to the family of her brother Laban to find a wife; he had no money, no camels, no jewelry. The meeting between Jacob and Rachel is well known; he removes the stone from the well, waters Laban’s flock, then she runs to tell Laban and her father that Isaac’s son has arrived. 

So …. Laban, what does he think? Ahhhh …. he’s coming with wealth … like in the case of Isaac, but then he finds out that Jacob is a poor man and then? … Well then Jacob falls in love with Rachel, he begins to work seven years for her and as you well know, on the day of the marriage, who does Laban give him… her older sister Leah.  Then we read in chapter 29 verse 25, an angry Jacob says to him: וְלָמָּה רִמִּיתָנִי  Ve lama rimitani: “And why have you deceived me?”In this process, we are seeing the work of Jacob to elevate and get beyond his soul and his potential.

Before leaving the land, he had dreamed about a staircase with angels ascending and descending and God telling him: “I will protect you and I will take care of you” … and then Jacob promises: “if you give me everything that you say to me, I will give you the maaser, a tenth of everything that comes into my life materially”. Over the next fourteen years, he would obtain two wives, and in the process of six more years, he would increase his livestock and his wealth.

Now we will delve into the development, and the tikkun, the restoration, of the soul of Jacob. He did receive the birthright but by deceiving Esav, but Esav had despised it and readily sold it to him. 

Later, we see a dispute among Jacob’s women, to be able to provide him with descendants. The birth of his sons begins from his two main wives and their concubines. Notice how interesting the names of their children are; each have to do with an encounter between man and God. The first is Reuven, which means: “see, we see God”; next, Shimon: “we hear”; and then with Levi begins: “devotion”; and after devotion comes, Yehudah: “gratitude”, and with gratitude we reach the next level, Dan: “judgment” where we begin to understand that there are rules within existence; next Naphtali, “God turns to us”: containing the idea of “facing the judgment of His rules”; then with Gad appears “fortune, the material goods necessary for our journey”; thus we realize that God always provides us with what we need so that we can continue to move forward; and then Asher: “happiness”. We understand the meaning of Issachar: “the reward”. We access “the abode, the quiet, the palace of the king” with Zebulun; and after this level of the soul, with Joseph, “we are attached to the Divine”. Each of the names of the sons of Jacob hints at a stage in the advancement of the soul and the restoration of inner peace.

Now tired, Jacob wants to leave, he wants to return to his land, but here arises the historical conflict of Israel with Laban, replete with hypocrisy: they welcome us, we bless them, Laban gets rich and when we want to leave, they begin to see that we have prospered … then they want to destroy us … God had to intervene and tell Laban: “Don’t touch him and don’t speak either good or bad to him”. Then Laban tells him: “You left without my being able to give you a proper send off or even kiss my daughters and my grandchildren.”  What a liar and hypocrite!

And we read that Rachel had taken the terafim, תְּרָפִים the local gods that were in Laban’s house … hypocritical and pagan … And Rachel, why did she take them? There are two opinions, some say that it was an act of good for Laban to stop trusting those gods, and others say that in reality, Rachel was still imbued with paganism. Let’s leave that open to interpretation.

Then Jacob returns to his land and in the distance, he sees Machanaim מַחֲנָיִם, a encampment of angels; those angels who had accompanied him to the limit and then withdrew, and those angels who later accompanied him out of the land of Israel, will now withdraw so that the protectors of the land of Israel can return. This entire story has something in common with the encounter between Rabbi Yeshua and Nathanael. Rabbi Yeshua sees Nathanael sitting under the fig tree and says: Here is a true Israelite. I’d like to remind you that Jacob would later be renamed Israel. The sod or mystical understanding would be “Ishaar El”: “the one who goes directly to God”. And Nathanael says to him: why did you see me sitting under the fig tree!? And then Nathanael tells him: This is the son of God! A messianic title for the messiah … and Yeshua answers him: From now on you will see the son of man being served by the angels and that angels ascend and descend to him.

What is Rabbi Yeshua telling us? First that he is the messiah, the son of man, and secondly, he highlights Nathanael because he is sitting under the fig tree: the fig tree represents the Torah, and all its branches are the Commandments; and being seated implies the study of …. the preparation … The soul rests within the Divine Will. But Yeshua adds, “I am the son of man; I come to bring the intention of how to live the commandments. If you live them as I teach you, then you will have the same experience as Jacob, understanding that the Portal to Heaven is within you, which is where the House of God is, Beit Elohim, beyond the structure of a Temple; as it is on the outside, so it is on the inside; as it is above, so it is below; if the Shechinah is in the Temple, the presence of God is also within us.”

And that is the function of the messiah; to ignite our soul and for us go through the different soul levels: the Nefesh, the physical, the vegetative soul; the Ruach HaKodesh: balancing the emotions; the Neshama: the soul on fire and the Nefesh Chaya: the soul with all the inner life developed … to reach the end of all the work of our soul: the Yechida, the union through the messiah.

What does all this story teach us? That Jacob had to work hard to develop himself; that God protected him throughout his journey, that he was loved and that he was rejected, and that he found this Portal to Heaven that the messiah opens to all of us, so that we can reach the fullest states of existence: peace, happiness, love and inner life.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabino Iosef Chemi