What is the significance of the ladder? Why were the angels first ascending and then descending?


Rashi and Ramban #1: Yakov was about to leave Eretz Yisrael on his way to Charan. 1 So in his dream, he saw the 'changing of the guards' - the angels of Eretz Yisrael that had accompanied up to the border of Eretz Yisrael returning to their place 2 in Heaven 3 and the angels of Chutz la'Aretz 4 that were waiting to accompany him till he arrived in Charan. 5


Targum Yonasan: The angels who had accompanied him until now were the same angels that had gone to S'dom and that, having sinned by revealing Hashem's secret (that He was about to overturn S'dom) to Lot, were denied permission to return to Heaven - until now. So he saw those angels ascend to Heaven, whereas the angels who were descending the ladder were coming to look at him. 6


Rashbam: The angels were going up and down the ladder. The order is not significant, since it is obvious that they descended first. 7


Ramban #2: Hashem showed Yakov that (a) everything that He does in this world is via angels, and (b) that the angels do not act independently, but by the command of Hashem. 8


Ramban #3: He also showed him how He was standing on top of the ladder watching over him, and He assured him that he (Yakov) would never under the jurisdiction of the angels, but directly under His personal jurisdiction (Hashgachah P'ratis). 9


Ramban (citing Pirkei d'R. Eliezer), Da'as Zekenim #2: Like the Bris bein ha'Besarim (in Lech Lecha), this was a prophetic vision concerning the four exiles 10 , at the hand of Bavel, Medes, Greece and Edom. 11


Da'as Zekenim #1, Hadar Zekenim: The ladder represents Har Sinai. The angels are Moshe and Aharon.


Tosfos ha'Shalem (6, and 20:4, citing R. Efrayim): The ladder shows that man is a microcosm of the world. His roots are in Shamayim, unlike trees. The ladder hints to three intellects (Nefashos) in man - the lowest is the source of physical lusts, the intermediate is the source of pride, anger and Ratzon, and the highest is spiritual, and aspires to Chachmah. The angels hint to Neshamos, which ascend (are drawn to the higher Sechel) or descend (towards Gashmiyus).


Ba'al ha'Turim, from the Zohar: The voice of prayer of Tzadikim is the ladder of angels. If one has intent in his prayer, the angels can ascend on it.


Tosfos ha'Shalem (11) citing Bereishis Rabah 68:12: "Artzah" hints to the Mizbe'ach; the ladder is the ramp, the smell of the Korbanos ascends to Shamayim, and the Kohanim go up and down.


Oznayim la'Torah: The angels of G-d rose and fell with him - with Yakov. It was because of Yakov (the B'chir she'be'Avos) that Hashem created the world - including the angels. Therefore when Yakov rises, the angels rise with him, and when he falls, they fall with him.


Moshav Zekenim, Tosfos ha'Shalem (7) citing R. Yakov of Vienna citing Ri of Orleans: He already went to Charan, and the angels of Eretz Yisrael departed! When he returned to pray, they returned.


See Oznayim la'Torah DH 'Olim ve'Yordim, #4 as to why they returned at this point.


Hadar Zekenim (verse 13): Angels who gave their wings to a girl (who refused their enticement, and she flew to Shamayim and became Mazel Besulah) were unable to return to Heaven until now. Alternatively, they were the angels sent to destroy Sedom.


Tosfos ha'Shalem (2, citing R. Efrayim): The two angels that accompany a person during the day ascend to record his actions that day, and two descend to guard him at night.


Oznayim la'Torah:Since when was Yerushalayim on the border between Eretz Yisrael and Chutz la'Aretz? - Ah, but Hashem had folded the whole of Eretz Yisrael underneath him - See Oznayim la'Torah DH 'Olim veYordim' #3.


Because the former told them that Yakov, whose image is engraved on the Divine Throne, and whom they were eager to see in person, was actually right there at the foot of the ladder, so they were coming to see him in person.


The Rashbam does not indicate who the angels were. See Ba'al ha'Turim, who presents a variety of explanations.


As the angels who had accompanied him until now returned to the Heaven to report to Hashem what they had done and what the situation was.


Since he was a cut above other Tzadikim, about whom the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (91:11) "For He commands His angels to guard you wherever you go".


Pane'ach Raza: Hashem showed him that the angels ascend and descend with the Shechinah, which is with Yisrael in exile.


He showed him how the angel of Bavel climbed seventy rungs before descending, the angel of Medes, fifty-two rungs, the angel of Greece, a hundred and eighty rungs, corresponding to the number of years that these nations would enslave his children. Then he saw the angel of Edom climbing and climbing and climbing. In response to his prayers, Hashem citing the Pasuk in Ovadyah (1:4), assured him that, "Even if you (Edom) will raise your nest like an eagle, from there will I bring you down!"


How wide was the ladder?


Chulin, 91b: It was eight thousand Parsah (ytwo thousand Mil) wide; since "Olim ve'Yordim bo" implies that there were four angels on the ladder simultaneously, two climbing up and two climbiing down - and each angel is the width ot the Sea of Tarshish, which was two thousand Amos wide (See Gemara there).


רש"י: מלאכים שליווהו בארץ...עלו לרקיע, וירדו מלאכי חוצה לארץ ללותו: גור אריה: קשה שהוא עדין לא יצא מהארץ?


גור אריה (לקמן, לב,ב): היציאה מירושלים כבר נקראת יציאה [מהארץ] כי קדושת הארץ היא ירושלים.


רש"י: עולים תחילה ואחר כך יורדים: אם עלו תחילה, נמצא שהיה שעה בלא שמירה?


גור אריה: לכן כתוב (פסוק יג) "והנה ה' ניצב עליו" לשמרו.


רש"י: עולים תחילה ואחר כך יורדים: למה לא ירדו תחילה ואז לא יזדקק לכך שה' ניצב עליו?


גור אריה: אין מלכות נוגעת בחברתה ולכן צריך שבתחילה יסתלקו מלאכי הארץ.


מה פשר עליית וירידת המלאכים?


מהר"ל (נצח ישראל תחילת פי"ז, עמ' צב): במדרש כתוב שיעקב ראה את שריהם של בבל, מדי ויון עולים ויורדים ואילו את ירידת שר אדום לא ראה, עד שהבטיחו ה' להורידו, כי הירידה של שלושת המלכויות היא מצד העוה"ז ולכן יעקב ראה זאת, אבל ירידת מלכות אדום היא רק מצד העולם העליון- ע"י מלך המשיח, וזו סיבת אריכות הגלות. 1


מהר"ל (חידושי אגדות ח"ד עמ' קח, ד"ה ופרשו רז"ל, חולין דף צא:): צורת יעקב חקוקה בכסא הכבוד, ולכן המלאכים היו עולים לראות צורתו למעלה, ויורדים לראות למטה. 2


ע"ע במהר"ל (נצח ישראל פ"כ, עמ' קה, ד"ה ופירוש סוד) שהמלכויות הן גשמיות, ולכן כאשר ראה יעקב את עלייתם ידע שהם יורדים, כי כשדבר גשמי מתעלה ומגיע לשלימותו, שם הוא תכליתו כי לגשם יש קץ ותכלית. יעקב נבדל [מהחומר והוא לא גשמי] והעלייה שלו היא דבקות בה' והקב"ה בעצמו יהיה השלמתו, ולכן אמרו במדרש שאילו עלה יעקב באותה שעה, שוב לא הייתה לו ירידה ולא היו האומות שולטים בבניו, ולכן אמרו חז"ל "אלו האמנת ועלית" כי המאמין ב'אחד' דבק בו לגמרי.


ועיי"ש שלכן רצו המלאכים לסכן אותו, ולכן ממשיך הפסוק "והנה ה' נצב עליו".

Sefer: Perek: Pasuk:
Month: Day: Year:
Month: Day: Year:

KIH Logo
D.A.F. Home Page
Sponsorships & Donations Readers' Feedback Mailing Lists Talmud Archives Ask the Kollel Dafyomi Weblinks Dafyomi Calendar Other Yomi calendars