Ascending Yaakov’s Ladder
Based on Meshivas Nefesh #32
When Yaakov Avinu encountered that place, which is the place of the Beis Hamikdash, he merited to fully perceive the concept of the awesomely great value of the slightest ‘arousal from below’ and how specifically through this is drawn down a great illumination from the aspect of ‘arousal from above’. He perceived how the ‘arousal from below’ and the ‘arousal from above’ become united and that this is the aspect of the unifications that are accomplished by way of the Jewish people’s divine service. It was also revealed to him that the main rectifications and unifications are achieved with completion in the Beis Hamikdash. Then “he awoke from his sleep and said: ‘Indeed! Hashem is in his place and I did not know’”.
With this Yaakov Avinu instituted that it should be fixed in the heart of all the souls for generations to come, until this very day, that even the most exceedingly fallen souls who think that Hashem is not to be found in their place, G-d forbid, and that all the aspects of their ‘arousal from below’ are worthless – they too should know and believe with complete faith that even in their place Hashem is there, as He is in every place in the world. For the truth is that Hashem is in this place too, for “His glory fills the entire world”, it is only that owing to the great concealment one is not aware of this, and this is the aspect of “and I did not know”. However, if one arouses himself with some ‘arousal from below’, he will merit finding Him. This is mainly achieved through the power of the Beis Hamikdash, which is the root-source of all souls and upon it is dependant their rectification as well as that of all the worlds. It is also through the power of the holiness of the true tzaddikim who are involved in every generation in the building of the Beis Hamikdash. It is from there that is drawn upon the entire Jewish people the aspect of arousal to teshuva (repentance). Nevertheless, some degree of ‘arousal from below’ is also necessary. (Likutey Halachos, Hilchos Mincha 7, paragraphs 84 & 85)
The Egyptian exile – I am worthless.
It is in these weeks of Shovavim that we read the portions of the gallus (exile) and ge’ula (redemption), and as is known, ‘the reading arouses the times’ and the spiritual force of redemption is thus awakened during these weeks. Every Jew desires to be redeemed from his own personal exile and it is certainly fitting to first understand the source of exile itself. The main aspect of exile is that which it seems to a person that his divine service is not valued at all on high. This causes one a lack of arousal to the service of Hashem and he therefore sinks further and further into the darkness of the gallus.
During the time of the Beis Hamikdash it could be clearly seen how the slightest arousal of a person from below ascended and was included in the arousal from above. This unification and connection was revealed and it was clear that every Jew touches the heavens with each mitzvah he performs. Thus, there was an automatic arousal and tremendous enthusiasm to serve Hashem.
However, during the gallus, when Yaakov – the Jewish people, go out to “Charan” – a place of Charon aff (wrath) and harsh judgments, they no longer see the connection they have with all the heavenly worlds. Owing to this there is also no arousal to perform any action of holiness, for why should one do something for no reason, why should he exert himself when he sees nothing come from it. Through this one then falls into a deep spiritual slumber. This is what Yaakov Avinu meant when he said “and I did not know” – he did not understand that his holy arousal was unified with and uplifted to the heavens.
Even though we all know how to babble on about the truth, how a Jew has the power to affect the entire universe with each mitzvah and how every little thing is so precious to Hashem, nevertheless, it is still possible to live from day to day in the darkness of the gallus since it is difficult to truly take this truth to heart. Each day, thousands of thoughts pass through our minds unnoticed which in essence say: “I am worthless”. During each prayer and bracha, amidst our torah learning, and with each test of anger or the like, we are plagued with the thought: ‘of what importance is my minute arousal to Hashem?’
This is a person’s main exile, for it prevents him from being aroused to return to Hashem, especially when the concern enters his heart that he might fail again and that his repentance might not be accepted. The gallus and concealment is so great that we refuse to accept words of comfort and encouragement, to understand that every tiny drop is truly precious to Hashem.
A ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching the heavens
However, through Yaakov’s experience, a rectification was made for all future generations, enabling one to awaken from this slumber. For in truth, Yaakov fell into a slumber specifically in the place of the Beis Hamikdash and there, amidst the deep slumber, the wondrous dream was revealed to him – a ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching the heavens. It was there that was revealed to him the secret of the Beis Hamikdash, how the ‘arousal from below’ and arousal from above’ are unified above, how the tiniest arousal from below ascends and does wonders in the heavenly worlds. It was then that he awoke and exclaimed: “Indeed! Hashem is in this place and I did not know”.
Therefore during these weeks of Shovavim, when we are involved in trying to escape the gallus and do teshuva, it is imperative to remember that despite the many holy soul rectifications that are customarily practiced during these times, our first arousal must be in this fundamental concept. We must understand how precious every arousal is. This is pertinent to every person on every level, even he for whom the fasting and uninterrupted hours of learning are difficult.
The main thing is to make many new beginnings and to believe in their value
Even though in the gallus we do not see the interconnection of our arousal with Hashem’s arousal to bring us close to him, we need to know that this itself is the main way to exercise our free-will, to begin anew over and over again. For Hashem’s main pleasure is when a person arouses himself from below, from a place where it seems impossible to be aroused. This is why a person truly falls so many times and begins to wonder what will be with him. He does not understand that essentially what Hashem wants from him is to do teshuva, and that the main teshuva is making fresh beginnings an infinite amount of times together with the belief that every one of his actions ascends and is infinitely precious. All this is achieved through the power what was revealed in Yaakov’s dream – how he awoke and was astonished to see how everyone’s actions are exceedingly valued above, more than we could ever know….