highlight from parashas Vayeitzei
by Tzvi Schnee
“And he was afraid, and said: ‘How full of awe is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’”
– Genesis 28:17, JPS 1917 Tanach
Jacob gathered some stones together, placed them around his head, and went to sleep for the evening; during the night he dreamed: “Behold a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of G-d ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). When he awoke, he exclaimed, “this is the gate of heaven” (see above). According to Sforno, “The ladder signified that it was from that place that prayers ascend to heaven” (sefaria.org).
This place (hamakom) was where the Temple was later constructed, serving as a conduit between heaven and earth; additionaly, the Heavenly Temple rests above this location in Shomayim (Heaven). The importance of a gate, where a connection exists between heaven and earth serves as an inspiration for us to know that our prayers have the opportunity to ascend to G-d. Many people pray at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, where the Temple once stood; yet, we are not limited in the efficacy of our prayers, when praying outside of Jerusalem.
The Talmud speaks of H’Shem’s immanence and transcendance: He may hear the whispered prayer of a person praying in a small sanctuary in the countries where the Jewish people are dispersed (Ezekekiel 11:16). So, we should take heart in knowing that G-d will hear our prayers, whether communal or individual prayers, even though He is sitting on His throne in Seventh Heaven (Talmud).