For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"And he dreamed, and behold! A ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it." (Gen. 28:12)

Peshat (basic meaning):

The angels who escorted him in the [Holy] Land do not go outside the Land...

Rashi: ascending and descending: Ascending first and afterwards descending. The angels who escorted him in the [Holy] Land do not go outside the Land, and they ascended to heaven, and the angels of outside the Holy Land descended to escort him.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "a dream" spelled in full has gematria of 84, equal to that of Zehu Binvuah meaning 'This is through prophecy'.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Nefesh HaChayim (translation by R. Finkel, 2009): Even within man himself, the 3 elements of Nefesh [the animalistic element of the soul], Ruach [the element above Nefesh], and Neshama [the most lofty component] attain the power to elevate themselves and the higher worlds only when they descend to this material world and enter the physical body of man. For it says, "Then the L-rd G‑d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul". (Gen. 2:7)

First G‑d breathed, and only then man became a living being. The descent of the soul in this world is exemplified by the ladder of Yaakov's dream. (See Zohar Naso 123.) "And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground." The ladder clearly represents the soul of life. And, "angels of God were ascending and descending upon it" signifying that by standing on the ground, the soul's lower end becomes "clothed" in the garment of man's body. (Ibid. Chapter 10)

Targum Yonatan [28:10]: 'Five miracles occurred with Jacob when he left Be'er-Sheva:
1.The day was cut short, and the sun set before its time, because G‑d wished to talk to him
2.When he awoke in the morning, he found that the four stones (depicting the four wives that he was destined to marry) that he had placed under his head when he lay down, had turned into one stone
3.He rolled the stone from the well - with one hand, although normally, it required the combined effort of all the local shepherds to remove it
4.The well began to flow and the water rose to meet him, and it continued to flow for the entire duration of Jacob's stay in Haran (in verse 10, the Targum will add that it flowed for twenty years)
5.The earth 'jumped' before him, and on the same day that he left home he arrived in Haran.

G‑d showed Jacob that whatever is down on earth is effected by means of the angels...

Ramban: In a prophetic dream, G‑d showed Jacob that whatever is down on earth is effected by means of the angels, and that everything is done by decree given to them by the Supreme One. "For He will give His angels charge over you, to keep thee in all your ways". (Psalms 91:11).
This vision was like that given to Avram at the time of the covenant "between the parts" for He showed Jacob the dominion of the 4 Kingdoms of Greece, Persia, Babylon, and Edom

Ohr HaChayim:: "He dreamed that there was a ladder." Since many dreams contain matter without import, the Torah added the word "And behold!" [in Hebrew, "v'henai"] to indicate that in this dream every detail appeared to Jacob as especially vivid and important. He had total recall of everything he dreamed, and referred to each detail later on. This is why the word "Behold" is repeated before every segment of the dream. The Torah thereby characterizes the dream as a prophetic revelation.

Maggid Mesharim: "The ladder was set earthward and its top reached to the Heavens." The ladder was the illuminating sefirot that give light to Kenesset Yisraelmalchut below that is called earth. Its top reached toward the Heavens — that by means of the illuminating sefirot in malchut, malchut below can connect itself to the top of the Sefirot to the upper 3 Sefirot that are called the Heavens, in the plural. "And behold angels of G‑d were going up and down on it ['bo', spelled beit-hei]" That is they were ascending to bina [the eighth sefira counting from the bottom, starting with malchut] for the gematria equivalent of the word 'bo' is 8. Besides, the beit hints to bina as it is the first letter of both bo and bina. It is also stated that by the letter beit attaching itself to the vav, [the two letters of 'bo'] the Sefirot ascend toward bina.

Lubavitcher Rebbe: Rashi said that the angels which escorted Jacob in the Land of Israel were not permitted to leave the Land, so they ascended to Heaven, and the angels of Exile descended from Heaven to escort him further. The Land of Israel was not holy in the times of the Patriarchs, which is why they left the Land on a number of occasions. But if it was not yet holy, why were angels forbidden to leave? heaven, the Land of Israel is always associated with holiness.
Although the physical land had not become holy, in heaven the Land has always been desired by G‑d. Jacob and his descendents who lived down here on earth were allowed to leave the Land, since the physical Land had not become holy yet. But angels who dwell in Heaven were not permitted to leave since in heaven, the Land of Israel is always associated with holiness. (Likutei Sichot 25:152)

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Vayetze 149: Come and see: "And he dreamed." How could it be that to holy Jacob, the chosen of the patriarchs, and in such a sacred place, G‑d was revealed only in a dream?
Jacob was not yet married and Isaac was still alive. You may wonder why, after he was married, it is written: "I...saw in a dream". (Gen. 31:10) This was because he was outside Israel, and Isaac was yet alive. Therefore it is written that he dreamed.
Afterwards, when he came to the Holy Land with the tribes and "the barren woman" was perfected with them: "and be a joyful mother of children". (Psalms 113:9) It is written: "And G‑d appeared to Jacob," (Gen. 35:9) "And G‑d spoke to Israel in the vision of the night". (Gen. 46:2)

BeRahamim LeHayyim: The Zohar is confusing. On the one hand we have our holy patriarch Jacob sleeping on Mt. Moriah, on the Even Shetiyah, the foundation stone of creation, the site of the future Temples. But on the other hand we know that G‑d reveals Himself to lesser others only in visions of the night [see for example Abimelech (Gen. 20:60), Laban (31:24), Balaam (Num. 22:9)]. Why was Jacob subject to a lower level of revelation, as through a dark speculum, a dim mirror?

...according to Sefer Yetzirah, the sense for this month is sleep.

The Zohar answers that it was because Jacob was not married, that he was outside Israel proper, and that his father was still alive. Seems that even our nightlife, meaning our dream potential, depends on our daily situation, how we are anchored in the world, what sort of energies we are privy to in our day-to-day life. And in this month of Kislev especially, for it is the month where we live in the times of the Torah portions that deal with dreams: Jacob's dream of the ladder above, Jacob's dream of wrestling with the angel (according to some interpretations), Josef's dreams related to his brothers, and Josef interpreting the Butler, Baker and finally Pharoah's dreams. That is because according to Sefer Yetzirah, the sense for this month is sleep. "To sleep, perchance to dream"!

This is one reason why we are to review our daily activities before sleeping, to figure out how we might have missed the mark toward G‑d, toward others and toward self, as well as forgiving others who might have offended us in some way. This nightly accounting serves to "clean one's slate, and if done properly with sincere confession to follow, opens up one to higher levels of lucid dreaming. For the past 3500 plus years we have told the story of this dream, probably the most beloved dream in history. It is a dream of a man fleeing from the persecution of his brother, leaving the tents of his parents, to go to be a stranger in a strange land. The Sulam/ladder meditation is so important that it survives to this day among Kabbalists for ascent to higher consciousness. May you merit that your earthly foundation be strong enough to stand a spiritual ladder, a ladder elevating you to deeper and more profound self-realizations than ever before.

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