The Ladder Comes to Life

Dec 15th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
We’ve met this word many times and can’t seem to find the perfect definition: “These are the toledot of Jacob,” can mean, “These are the stories of all that happened to Jacob’s generations (Rashi),” or, “these are the things that happened to Jacob (Ibn Ezra),” or, “these are the generations of Jacob (Ramban).”

The Ohr haChaim haKadosh points out that since the verse begins, “Eileh,” without the vav that would connect this verse to the previous verses and paragraphs, “and these are…” indicates that whatever follows is a break from what preceded it. “These stories and not the preceding, are the tales of Jacob!”


Jacob sought a calm life. No more confrontations. No more wars. No more controversy. No more of his ladder connecting heaven and earth; for the climb up that ladder is never calm. One does not ease himself into connecting heaven and earth.

It is only after we learn that Jacob desired the calm life and turned away from his ladder climbing that the Torah uses the word toledot . The first  toledot in the bible is, “These are the toledot , the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 1:4).” the story of the Garden, and those of Adam, his search for a wife, the introduction of Eve, and the sin are all details in another much broader story, that of the “generations of the heavens and the earth,” the connection between heaven and earth, the ladder in Jacob’s dream. Jacob had lived a tumultuous life, and yet, although he has great faith in God, does not succeed in connecting heaven and earth, and now he wanted out of the responsibility!

“These are the toledot, the generations of Jacob,” these and not those described earlier because it is only now that Jacob will learn how we create our own realities, or, connect heaven and earth. Jacob would learn that his decision to store his ladder in the attic led to the turmoil of Joseph. Our actions on earth will shape heaven’s reaction. That is the connection between heaven and earth.

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