Where exactly was the ladder located?
Rashi: The foot of the ladder was in Be'er-Sheva (in the south of Yehudah), the top in Beis-El (in the north of Binyamin) and the middle in Yerushalayim (in the north of Yehudah, where it borders Binyamin).
Ramban #1: The foot of the ladder was in Be'er-Sheva, and the top was in Yerushalayim (which Yaakov called Beis-El, alias Luz).
Ramban #2: The foot was in Yerushalayim, and the top was in Beis-El. 1
Where was Yaakov?
Ramban: He was at the foot of the ladder, i.e. in Be'er-Sheva or Yerushalayim. 3
'Beis ha'Mikdash' refers to the place where it would be built, or the Beis ha'Mikdash in Shamayim.
And this was the Kefitzas ha'Derech mentioned in Chulin 91b. See Ramban, who strongly challenges this explanation.
These are the opinions of Rebbi Yosi ben Zimra and R. Yehudah in the Midrash, respectively, unlike R. Simon. (The latter conforms to the Gemaros in Chulin 91b and in Sanhedrin 95b).
What is the significance of "Mah Nora ha'Makom ha'Zeh"?
Ramban: We learn from here that when someone prays in Yerushalayim it is as if he is praying before the Kisei ha'Kavod, as the Gates of Heaven are open to accept his Tefilos.
Moshav Zekenim: Luz became desolate, for they were living in a Kodesh place. Yaakov feared that also he would be stricken, for he slept there.
Tosfos ha'Shalem (6): In this place Neshamos rise, the Sanhedrin sits, the Beis ha'Mikdash will be, the Aron will be, and it is the gate of Tefilos. The words allude to these, e.g. Nora is Aron backwards.
Tosfos ha'Shalem (7): "Mah Nora ha'Makom ha'Zeh" refers to Bayis Rishon. "Ein Zeh Ki Im" refers to Bayis Sheni. "V'Zeh Sha'ar ha'Shamayim" refers to Bayis Shelishi.
What did Yaakov mean when he described his current location as "the Gateway to Heaven"?
Rashi #2: The Heavenly Beis-ha'Mikdash is located exactly opposite the Beis-ha'Mikdash on earth. 3
Bechor Shor: It is the place where the angels enter and leave in front of Hashem and to His house, to do His mission.
Rashi: That is the spot from which Tefilos (and Korbanos - Ramban) ascend to Heaven.
Tosfos ha'Shalem (16): Since Rashi says that the Beis ha'Mikdash jumped to here, he must say so also about the Beis ha'Mikdash above. Ohr ha'Chayim - the repeated "v'Zeh" alludes to another matter.
Why was Yaakov afraid?
Seforno: He was afraid on account of his having erroneously slept there, rather than preparing himself for Nevu'ah. 1
Ohr ha'Chayim, Ha'amek Davar: He felt fear by himself (without a reason), due to the awesome [Kedushah] of the place. 2
How did Yaakov know that this is Beis Elokim?
Da'as Zekenim: He saw that the angels ascend, descend and remain there.
Ha'amek Davar: He understood from the fear he felt that this place is proper for Tefilah like Beis Elokim.
Why did Yaakov say "Ein Zeh [Ki Im Beis Elokim]"?
Tosfos ha'Shalem (15): It is not a dream. Rather, it is clear truth - this is Beis Elokim.
Tosfos ha'Shalem (9, from Bereishis Rabah 69:7): "Ein Zeh" refers to the time of Churban. 1
Tosfos ha'Shalem (7): "Ein Zeh" refers to Bayis Sheni [in which five of the miracles of Bayis Rishon were missing].
Also Kinah 14 that Ashkenazim say on Tish'ah b'Av alludes to this. (PF)
QUESTIONS ON RASHI
Rashi writes: "[This is] none other than the House of Hashem - The midpoint of the [ladder's] incline was opposite the Beis ha'Mikdash." How do we know it refers to the midpoint?
Gur Aryeh: Yaakov slept in Luz/ Beis-El (28:19), not on Har ha'Moriyah - yet he declared that this would be the site of the Beis ha'Mikdash! He must be referring to the site underneath the midpoint of the ladder. Refer to 28:17:1.3.
Rashi writes: "The ladder's foot was in Be'er Sheva, its midpoint was opposite the Beis ha'Mikdash... and its head at Beis-El." How is this derived?
Gur Aryeh: It is derived from the verses at the beginning of the Parshah. a) "Yaakov left from Be'er Sheva," b) "He encountered the place (i.e. Har ha'Moriyah)", c) "he stayed there overnight (i.e. in Luz/ Beis-El)" (28:10-11).
Rashi writes: "The midpoint of the [ladder's] incline was opposite the Beis ha'Mikdash." What is the significance of the midpoint?
Gur Aryeh #1: This way, the distance from the bottom of the ladder to the earthly Beis ha'Mikdash, would be equivalent to the distance from its top to the Heavenly Beis ha'Mikdash (for the purpose of the ladder was to go from one Beis ha'Mikdash to the other).
Gur Aryeh #2: The ladder shows that the lower worlds are attached to (and dependent upon) the upper worlds. The rungs represent the many levels in between. It was set up at an angle, leaning towards the side (rather than straight up), to show that while the upper worlds are at a greater, higher level; the levels are not comparable; rather each level is distinct. 1 Only the Beis ha'Mikdash relates to both worlds equally; it is where the Shechinah rests, and man can come to serve Hashem. It lies under the middle of the ladder - which serves as the transition point between the two worlds. 2
I.e. one cannot ascend in a straight line to the upper worlds; rather, one must progress.
Rashi writes: "It emerges that a ladder, the feet of which were in Be'er Sheva and its head in Beis-El; the midpoint of its incline would be opposite Yerushalayim." What is the symbolism of these three places?
Gur Aryeh: Be'er Sheva is the preferred place in Eretz Yisrael for receiving Berachah, 1 which is the characteristic of the lower realms. Beis-El has a G-dly aspect, and as such the Angel of Death had no power there. 2 The Beis ha'Mikdash includes all these aspects, and is located in the middle.
Rashi writes: "... The ladder's foot was in Be'er Sheva, its head in Beis-El; and its midpoint was opposite Yerushalayim." The Midrash cites two opinions that both differ from that of Rashi - either the ladder's foot was in Be'er Sheva and its head was in Yerushalayim - or its foot was in Yerushalayim and its head in Beis-El. What is the symbolism behind these two opinions?
Gur Aryeh: The lower worlds are distinct from the upper worlds; it is unfitting that they would be connected by one ladder. The two opinions differ if Yaakov saw [the first half of the ascent,] from the lower worlds to the Mikdash (which is comprised of both worlds), or if he saw [the second half,] from the Mikdash to the very highest levels.
Rashi writes: "Regarding what our Sages said... [that the Beis ha'Mikdash came towards him, until it met him at Beis-El]." What is Rashi adding at this point?
Gur Aryeh: Rashi wrote above that the ladder's midpoint was opposite Yerushalayim. But there are sources in Chazal that Yaakov himself slept at the location of the Beis Ha'Mikdash. 1 But wasn't Yaakov in Luz (28:19)? Rashi answers that Yerushalayim "jumped" and met Yaakov there. That is when he named it Beis -El, and it is to that time that Chazal refer.
"This Tzadik came to My place of lodging, and he would leave without staying the night?!" (Chulin 91b). "Yaakov referred to it (the Beis ha'Mikdash) as a Bayis... [naming it] Beis-El" (Pesachim 88a).
Rashi writes: "Har ha'Moriyah was uprooted from its place and it came here (to Yaakov, in Luz/ Beis-El)." Why did it do so only when Yaakov arrived in Beis-El, and not earlier?
Mizrachi: That way Yaakov would pray at two important holy sites simultaneously, Yerushalayim and Beis-El.
Gur Aryeh #1: Rashi writes that Yaakov returned [from Charan] as far as Beis-El, at which point the Beis ha'Mikdash came to greet him. It could not possibly have come sooner, to meet him upon unclean soil!
Gur Aryeh: Thus, this instance of Kefitzas ha'Aretz would be parallel to that of Eliezer and Avishai (Sanhedrin 95a-b) (in that a person rapidly changed his location, rather than a place itself moving elsewhere).
Gur Aryeh: Rashi does not explain this way; for once Yaakov was granted Kefitzas ha'Aretz, why didn't he 'jump' all the way to Yerushalayim?
Rashi writes that Hashem performed Kefitzas ha'Derech for Yaakov (Refer to 28:17:2:1) to speed up his arrival at the Beis-ha'Mikdash. Why did He not stop him when he passed it the first time?
Rashi: If Yaakov did not think of stopping there to pray, why should Hashem stop him? 1
Rashi writes: "Could it be that I passed by the place where my forefathers prayed, and I did not [stop to] pray there?" Why in fact didn't Yaakov stop there initially?
Gur Aryeh: At the time, Yaakov was afraid that Esav was chasing him. Due to his fear, he would have been unable to concentrate on his prayers (he was Tarud). Once enough time had elapsed for Yaakov to reach Charan, Yaakov realized that Esav must have given up the chase, and he was no longer afraid.
Maharal (Chidushei Agados Vol. 4, p. 106, to Chulin 91b): Yaakov had Kefitzas ha'Aretz on his way to Charan, and he reached there on the same day he left Be'er Sheva. He was therefore unaware when he passed by Har ha'Moriyah.
Rashi writes: "'Mah Nora' (how awesome) is this place! - The Targum translates 'Nora' as 'Dechilu;' this is a noun, just like 'Suchlesanu' (intelligence)." What does Rashi mean?
Gur Aryeh: Since the word 'Dechilu' ends in a Vav, I might have understood it as a verb in the past tense, meaning 'how they feared this place.' Rashi shows that a noun (in this case an adjective) can also take this form, e.g. 'Suchlesanu"
Rashi writes: "... And this is the gate of Heaven - Homiletically, [it means that] the Beis ha'Mikdash above is aligned with the Beis ha'Mikdash below." How is this derived?