Jacob's Ladder and the Laws of Ma'aser
What Did Jacob’s Dream Mean?
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
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Hi everybody, this is Rabbi David Fohrman coming to you on Facebook Live from Aleph Beta Central over here in Hewlett, New York. I wanted to share with you some thoughts that I have been working on over the weekend. I actually saw this about a week ago or so and I have been playing with some of the ideas and I really think it's quite fascinating. So let me just give you a taste of that. I actually brought you into this discussion a little bit on Friday with a little tease. So I'll review the whole tease with you and see if we can develop it.
I mentioned to you that -- I think I mentioned to you that if you look at the story of Jacob's dream, the famous dream with the ladder and one of the questions really is what was the meaning of that dream? Why is it that Jacob saw that ladder with the angels coming up and down?
I happen to notice something interesting about it. I just want to point out to you. I'm going to point out to you a fascinating textual pattern and suggest some possibilities of what it might mean. The pattern involves an understanding of Jacob's dream, of Yaakov's dream and the pattern began with this little piece over here.
If you look at the very end of Jacob's dream -- I'm actually going to share my screen with you so you can see what it is that I am doing here. What I have over here is two texts that I want to compare. A text in Deuteronomy from actually this past week's parshah and the text of Jacob's dream and I have this just in Hebrew, but I'll sort of translate as I go along here.
Anyway, what I pointed out to you is that if you look here at the very end of Jacob's dream -- I'm just going to highlight this, this very last language. Jacob says "v'chol asher titen li aser a'asrenu lach". The idea here is that Jacob says that at the very end of this promise that God gives him because God promised him some very nice things; I'm always going to be with you, I'll take care of you and everything is going to be wonderful. So Jacob says that if that in fact happens, I'm going to establish this stone as a matzeivah, as a monument and then it's going to be the House of God, "yihiye beit Elokim," the House of God, "v'chol asher titen li aser a'asrenu lach," everything that you give me I will tithe to you, I will give you one-tenth of it.
What got me thinking is that there's another time that you have that sort of phraseology used in the Bible and it's right in Deuteronomy -- in Deuteronomy 14, in Devarim Yud-Daled and I'm going to highlight it right over here. It's in the laws of tithing. Aser ta'aser, the laws of tithing, that you should surely give a tenth. You should give a tenth of what you have back to God.
It struck me, you know, is that connection coincidental or not. What you see about this connection is -- by the way, it's not just the language of tithing, but it's that particular way of doubling that language. Remember the way that Jacob puts it is "v'chol asher titen li," everything that you give me, "aser a'asrenu lach," I will surely give you a tenth of it, where aser a'asrenu, you see that double kind of language and over here too aser t'aser, you have that same double kind of language in Deuteronomy 14 that begins these laws of tithing.
My question was, are these connected? I think the challenge I left you, if you have a chance to take a look at it, was do the connections between these two parshiot proliferate or not? Is this the only connection between these stories or are there more? I want to suggest that there are more.
I'm actually going to give you a little analogy here. The little analogy here is almost like the way you see stuff like this. It is almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, you know, 500 pieces and you put together the whole puzzle and what if someone came to you and said wow, you're such a genius, you figured out where all 500 pieces of those go. You'd say I wasn't a genius, but there's a methodology behind it. The methodology basically is that if you get done turning over all the pieces; you start with the corner pieces because you know where the corner pieces go. The corner pieces help to find the frame and then you sort of build out from the edges once you see that and once you see that, you can build out towards the middle.
That's the same thing over here. Once you see something like this, that sort of suspiciously looks like a corner piece. It's like the Torah is shouting at you aser t'aser, it's supposed to remind you of "v'chol asher titen li aser a'asrenu lach," everything you give me, I will give you a tenth of.
Now, you might be right about that or it might just be coincidental. It's possible that the Torah just coincidentally uses the same language. How do you know if it's coincidence or not? The way you know if it's coincidence or not is whether you see more. Again, to borrow an analogy from the laws -- from sort of archeology. You're brushing stuff off in your archeological dig and you find a fossil and it looks suspiciously like a dinosaur bone, it looks like a rib, but you don't know whether it's a rib or maybe it's just a rock that just happens to look like a rib. How do you know whether it's really a fossil of a dinosaur rib or not? If you keep on looking around you're going to find the rest of the rib cage and if you do, then it's probably a rib.
Here too, if you keep on looking around in this parshah, as you read the story of Deuteronomy will you continue to hear echoes of Jacob and the dream story. If so, you know that it's probably real. If not then you know maybe it's just a coincidence.
That was the challenge I left you with, are there further echoes and if there are, they might help us understand perhaps the story of the dream and the story of Deuteronomy. In other words, because whenever you have two texts that are kind of intertextually connected in that way, typically both texts will comment upon each other. You'll begin to understand each text better by virtue of what the other text tends to say about it.
Let's take a look -- let's quickly kind of remind ourselves of the basic idea behind the Deuteronomy. The Deuteronomy episode is a little bit less famous than the Jacob's dream episode, so let me just kind of summarize some of what it says to you. What it says is "aser t'aser et kol t'vuas zarecha hayotzei hasadeh shanah shanah," every year you should tithe what it is that God gives you in your fields. "V'achalta lifnei Hashem Elokecha bamakom asher yivchar," and you should eat that which Hashem gives you in the place that God has chosen. Here what we have is one of the kinds of tithing.
For those of you who are familiar with the laws of tithes, the way the halachah eventually expresses -- the way the Jewish law eventually expresses these laws is that there are three basic kinds of tithing, three basic kinds of tithes and on any given year of the seven-year shmittah cycle, you give, you know, two of these tithes. It just depends which, which year.
One of them is called the first tithe, the second is called the second tithe and the third is called the tithe of the poor. Ma'aser rishon, the first tithe, goes to the Levi, the Levite. The second tithe is eaten by the owner in Jerusalem. The owner actually takes this tithe and takes it with him from wherever he lives and eats it in Jerusalem. Then the tithe of the poor, the third kind of tithe is actually given to poor people.
One of the general questions I sort of have for you, that I think these connections sort of illuminate, is what is it that sort of binds together all the various different laws of tithes because why is that I even call all these three different things tithes when they're so different? I mean, maybe the first tithe, giving to the Levite, has something to do with giving to the poor person, you know, the Levite doesn't have any land in Israel so he's kind of poor, but what does it have to do with the second tithe, which is, you know, eating your own food in Jerusalem? Why is there even such an idea? What's the rationale behind the second tithe? If it's to come to the Temple, I mean, you know, there are pilgrimage festivals that you can come to the Temple for. Why is it a special law that you're supposed to take a tenth of your stuff and you're supposed to eat it in Jerusalem in the Temple precinct? It just seems like a strange kind of thing to do.
I think we're actually going to get a picture of that here from these comparisons. Because it's interesting as you begin, by the way, to read this chapter on tithing over here in Deuteronomy, if you asked which one of these three tithes does the Torah sort of give pride of place to; it's actually surprising, right? Because if I would ask you, you know, if you're God and making your own religion, you 're going to have three different kinds of ma'aser, three different kinds of tithing, which one do you think is the most primary? The first tithe, the second tithe or the tithe of the poor? The tithe that you give to the Levites, the tithe that you eat yourself in Jerusalem or the tithe that you give to the poor? I would say the tithe that you give to the poor followed by the tithe that you give to the Levite and then last place is the tithe that you yourself eat in Jerusalem.
Actually if you look at these laws in Deuteronomy Chapter 14, it's exactly the reverse. The main bulk of these laws are all about the tithe that you yourself eat in Jerusalem. You can see it right over here. Look at what it is we're talking about. When you take your tithe, you know, the main focus here in Pasuk Chaf-Gimmel, in Verse 23, is "V'achalta lifnei Hashem Elokecha bamakom asher yivchar," you should eat it. What are we talking about? We're talking about the second tithe. We're talking about this tithe that you yourself eat in Jerusalem. Eat it before God in the place that He will choose, "l'shakein shemo sham," to invest His name there.
Interesting that why is that the way that we talk about the Temple specifically with reference to tithes, the place that God will invest His name? Anyway, "ma'aser d'gancha tiroshcha v'yitzharecha," all these different things that the God gives you whether it's your crops or whether it's u'v'chorot b'karcha, whether it's your cattle and here is why you do that. Why is there this law of the second tithe, of coming to Jerusalem to eat these tithes?
The Torah is not shy. I don't know if the Torah tells you but if you think about the reason the Torah tells you, it's just astounding. It just actually doesn't seem to make any sense. Here is why you do this. Here is why you bring all these tithes to Jerusalem. "L'ma'an tilmad," In order to learn, "l'yirah et Hashem Elokecha kol hayamim," to fear God, to be in awe in God all of the days of your life. That's the strangest thing in the world. How is it that the act of taking tithes from the Galilee down to Jerusalem and eating it in Jerusalem is going to teach me to fear God, to be in awe of God all the days of your life? I mean it's just astounding that we would even say that it's true. I mean it's sort of the least likely commandment in the Torah to be designed to cultivate a sense of awe in people. So where is that even coming from?
Then we get this long sort of digression which seems very technical. "V'chi yirbeh mimcha haderech," and if the way is too long, like if you live in the Galilee and you know, it's a real burden to take 10 percent of your crops and haul them all the way down to Jerusalem. What do you do if it's a long way? "Ki lo tuchal s'eito," it's very hard for you to carry everything, "ki yirchak mimcha hamakom asher yivchar Hashem Elokecha lasim shemo sham," because it's far away this place that God makes for you to come to eat this tithe. "Ki yivarechicha Hashem Elokecha," because God has blessed you, He has given you a lot of food, He spread you out so you're far away, so what do you do then?
Then you transfer it to money. "V'natata bakasef v'tzarta hakesef b'yadcha v'halachta el hamakom asher yivchar Hashem Elokecha bo," you take your 10 percent and you sell it. You sell it for $13,000. You bring your $13,000 now with you to Jerusalem and that's where you buy a big feast and you enjoy your feast -- a very big feast for $13,000, right? If you're a small town farmer, your tithe is $50, right.
Anyway, "V'natata hakesef bechol asher t'aveh nafshecha," once you get to Jerusalem then you can buy whatever you want with the money, "babakar, u'batzon, u'bayayin, u'vasheichar," you can buy wine, you can buy cattle, you buy whatever you like. "U'vchol asher tishalcha nafshecha," whatever it is that you choose, "v'achalta sham," there you should eat before God, "lifnei Hashem Elokecha v'samachta atah u'veisecha," there you're going to be happy, you and your household. That is the second tithe.
Now you have an allusion to the first tithe, to the law of giving tithe to the Levite because look what we have left. Next, "V'halevi asher bisharecha," and the Levite in your gates, "lo ta'azvenu," don't forget about him, do not leave them behind, "ki ein lo chelek v'nachalah imach," because he doesn't have any part with you, he doesn't have any land. So presumably the p'shat, the simple meaning is, when you make your big feast, invite the Levite to join with you.
Now, the Jewish law exegesis, the way we -- the Jewish law exegesis of this verse is as a separate tithe. Not just should you eat this tithe, this tenth for yourself, but you should also take a tenth and give it to the Levite, okay?
Then finally now we're going to get an allusion to the tithe of the poor, to giving to the poor as well. "Miktzei shalosh shanim totzi et kol ma'aser t'vuascha bashanah hahi," if you set aside tithes year after year, but you haven't gotten the chance to take it down to Jerusalem, you have three years of tithes all stored up, "v'hinachta bisharecha," and you keep it in your gates. "Uba halevi ki ein lo chelek v'nachalah imach v'hager v'hayatom v'halmanah," you should allow the Levite and you should allow the less fortunate of society, the stranger, the orphan, the widow, "asher bisharecha," in your gates --
A lot of mention, in your gates. The Levite is in your gates and you should put the tithe in your gates and these widows and stuff and orphans are in your gates; strange why we always describe these people being in your gates. But anyway, "v'achlu v'saveiu," they should eat and they should be satisfied, "l'ma'an yivarechicha Hashem Elokecha," so that they should eat and they should be filled, "l'ma'an yivarechicha Hashem Elokecha," so that God should bless you, "b'chol ma'aseh yadecha asher ta'aseh," in all of the things that it is that you do. Here we have an allusion to the tithe of the poor, to giving to the poor as well, which again, in Jewish law exegesis, is a third type of a tithe, the tithe that you give to the poor.
This is Deuteronomy Chapter 14, the laws of giving tithes. Again, about some strange stuff, why is it that the gates are always mentioned and even more than anything, why is there one idea of tithe that covers all these three different kind of tithes? Why even is there this idea, this rationale, to come to Jerusalem and eat your food? Why does it remind you to fear God? It's all very, very strange.
I believe that to illuminate this again, we can go back to the Jacob's ladder story. I believe it's connected and you see already in the beginning possibly what these connections are like. What's interesting is that isn't it interesting -- isn't it interesting that it's the very end of the story of Jacob's ladder where you have Jacob saying "v'chol asher titen li aser a'asrenu lach," that everything that you God give me, I will give you a tenth and it's the very beginning of the Deuteronomy there of aser t'aser where you have that notion of giving a tenth; the beginning and the end.
It's interesting that the end of the Jacob ladder story mirrors the beginning of the Deuteronomy story. Is there some sort of reverse correspondence here and I think that in fact there is. It's actually a chiastic structure, an A"t-Ba"sh structure. Remember, an A"t-Ba"sh structure is when you get sort of a reverse correspondence.
Remember for those of you who watched Aleph Beta for a while, the chiastic structure is A, B, C, D, E, D, C, B, A, right? There's a reverse order, right? As you're going in it's like this and as you're coming out it's like that and there may be the beginnings of a chiasm here. Let's kind of see if this is true, let's sort of fill it out.
Let's sort of read through -- let's see, how should we do it? I guess what we can do is we can start from -- I guess we know the story of Jacob's ladder backwards as -- it's a little strange, but the story of Jacob's ladder if you remember is -- just so we remember, Jacob leaves Beersheba, he comes to Haran, he finds this place, the sun goes down, he takes these stones, he places them under his head and then has this dream -- this dream with this ladder and there are angels going up and down and in that dream God comes to him and tells him something.
God says that -- we'll just pick up here from Verse 13, "ani Hashem Elokei Avraham avicha," I am the God of Abraham your father, the God of Isaac. The land that you're sleeping on I will give it to you and your children. Your children are going to be like afar ha'aretz, they're going to be like the dust of the earth, you can spread out in all the different directions ,north, south, east and west and through you blessing is going to come to all of the earth. "V'hinei anoichi imach ushmarticha bechol asher telech," I'll always be with you and I'll eventually bring you back to this place. "Lo e'ezavcha," I will not forsake you and will not leave you behind, "ad asher im asiti et asher dibarti lach," until I have done everything that it is that I have promised you.
Then what happens is Jacob wakes up. "Vayiketz Yaakov mishnato," he wakes up from his dream and says, "achein yesh Hashem bamakom hazeh v'anochi lo yadati," God is here in this place and I didn't even know. "Vayira," he's awed, he says "mah nora hamakom hazeh." Again, you can already see some of these elements that we saw from the tithes reappearing in the story over here. What's fascinating is the way they reappear. It's an exact chiastic pattern. It's really quite remarkable.
He's in awe; he puts this matzeivah there with the stones. He puts this monument there at the bottom where he sees the ladder. He calls the name of the place Beit El and he makes a promise. In his promise he says if God will stay with me, "im yihiyeh Elokim imadi ushmarani baderech hazeh asher anochi holech," if God will watch over me in this path that I am, "v'natan li lechem le'echol ubeged lilbosh," and He'll give me bread to eat and He'll give me clothes to wear. "V'shavti b'shalom el bets avi," and he returns me in peace to my father's house, then "v'hayah Hashem li leilokim," and God will in fact be a God for me, "V'ha'even hazot asher samti matzeivah yihiyeh bets Elokim," then this stone will be the beginning, the foundation, what will eventually be this House of God that sort of I will build for him, "v'chol asher titen li aser a'asrenu lach," and whatever you give me I will give you a tenth of. This is Jacob's promise.
If we just sort of go through this backwards, we're going to see a fascinating thing. Take a look at this over here. "V'natan li lechem le'echol," right? So Jacob says God, if you give me -- remember he's on his way out, he's on his way out to exile and he's worried about just the basics. This poor guy, he has nothing, he needs food. So he says to God, "v'natan li lechem le'echol ubeged lilbosh," right? He wants just, you know, food to be able to eat so God if you will give me bread to eat -- what does that remind you, sort of element number two in aser t'aser.
If you kind of read through this -- let's just look at this right over here. "V'achaltah lifnei Hashem Elokecha," right? There is this notion in eating, that's what you do. You eat this tithe, this is this notion of the second tithe, that you should tithe and then "v'achalta lifnei Hashem Elokecha," you should eat before God. So we have eating as sort of the second-to-last element perhaps in the Jacob story and eating as the second-to-first element in the aser t'aser story.
Now, I just want to sort of outline the pattern and then we can talk briefly a little bit about what it might mean, but I'll kind of leave that to you also to sort of wonder about.
Let's go a little bit farther and see what we can find. If we go a little bit farther we have this notion of this place that Jacob says. What is so special about this place? "Vayikra et shem hamakom hahu Beit El," he called this place the House of God, right? It's a very special place. He says "ein zeh ki im beit Elokim v'zeh shar hashamayim," this place is the House of God and this is the gates to heaven.
Well, that sort of reminds us of something. Let's sort of look at sort of the next element, next major element we can find in Deuteronomy 14, and oh, lo and behold, what does it write over here? Right over here we have exactly the same thing. Where is it that you eat these tithes? You eat them "bamakom asher yivchar l'shaken shemo sham," in the place that God is going to choose, i.e., God's House, the place of the Beit HaMikdash, the place of the Temple, where God is going to invest His name.
Lo and behold, here it is Jacob naming this place the House of God where he is and dedicating its cornerstone. For element number three you have -- sort of our pink element here -- you have the House of God, the special place.
Aser t'aser, element number one. Achalta, eating, element number two. The place of God, element number three. Let's keep on going forwards. You're going to find that every step forwards in Deuteronomy is going to be a step backwards in the story of the ladder. Let's keep on reading, okay? Now actually the pattern gets a little bit more complicated so let me just show you the complicated piece of this pattern. Let me try to show it to you right over here.
Let's take Verse 14 down through here. "V'hayah zaracha k'afar ha'aretz ufaratzta yamah vakeidmah v'tzafonah vanegbah," I'm reading now from the story of the dream. Your progeny is going to be like the dust of the earth and then it's going to spread out, those children of yours are going to spread out, God says, north, south, east and west, "v'nivrichu v'cha kol mishpichos h'adamah uvzarecha," and through you all of the families of the earth are going to become blessed.
"V'hinei unochi" -- and by the way that's kind of ambiguous, like what does that even mean? Through you all of them -- exactly how will Jacob's progeny bring blessing to everyone? Well, we will see that the parallels to Deuteronomy 14 are going to help us understand that.
"V'hinei unochi imach," and I will be with you God says, "ushmarticha b'chol asher teileich," I will watch over you wherever you go, "vahashivoticha el ha'adama hazot," and I'll bring you back to this place, "ki lo e'ezavcha," because I will never forsake you.
Okay. Let's see if we can find anything that sort of parallels this orange on the left side of the page when we're looking at Deuteronomy 14. As we keep on reading here, do we see anything that sort of reminds us of this? You can take a look with me and we can turn all of this very broadly speaking -- orange, right? In other words, what do we have here? We have the idea of -- in the story of Jacob -- of Jacob's progeny spreading out, spreading out throughout the land. This was God's promise, which is that your progeny are going to spread out throughout the land.
Well, look what we have in tithing. "V'chi yirbeh mimcha haderech." Right after we have this law that everyone is supposed to come to Jerusalem and eat this food, we say well, what if it's too far away? Why would it be too far away? Because God has spread you out. Listen to how it is. "V'chi yirbeh mimcha haderech" -- reading now from the left side of the page. If it's very, very far, "ki lo tuchal s'eito," you can't carry it that far, "ki yirchak mimcha hamakom," it's very far that God made His place to you.
Why is it far? "Ki yivarechicha Hashem Elokecha," because God blessed you. How did God bless you? Because He fulfilled exactly one of the things He told Jacob. He told Jacob that He's going to have all of Jacob's progeny going all the way out throughout the Land of Israel and there are going to be some in the Galilee, there'll be some in Beersheba, there'll be some in Eilat, they'll be all over the place and so therefore it's far. If you're going to come back -- so here's how you come back. "V'natatah bakesef v'tzarteh hakesef b'yadacha," you should buy it with money and you should come back to this very, very special place.
Now, notice right in the middle of this orange section, there is going to be a section we'll call the blue section. Look right over here, this idea of blessing, right? Through you, God said to Jacob, blessing will come to all of the children of the earth. Well, do you have this little blessing section right inside of the orange section, which basically has to do with spreading out, in Deuteronomy as well? It turns out that you do. Look at it right over here -- let me see if I can find it, here we go.
"Ki yivarechicha Hashem Elokecha," same idea, right? Which is right in the middle over here, God says that you're going to be all spread out. Why are you going to be spread out? Because God has blessed you. Over here you have this little blue section of blessing, right in the middle of the orange. Now let's further offer the contours over here. What about this over here?
The last thing God says in our little orange section on the right-hand side to Jacob is that I'm going to bring you back to this place, "v'hashivoticha el ha'adama hazot" -- let's color this in a new color. Let's call it red. I will return you to this place. Where do we have this idea of being very spread out, but then returning? Oh, we totally do because of course what happens when you're spread out? When you're spread out, you're spread out in all these places, but "V'natata bakasef v'tzarta hakesef b'yodcha v'halachta el hamakom asher yivchar Hashem Elokecha bo," you should all return. You should all come back to the Temple. There's our return section which was our red section.
Right after we have our red section, we have one last idea which is God says to Jacob, don't worry, I'm going to return you to this place, you'll always come back, "ki lo e'ezavcha," because I will not forsake you. You're going off into exile. It's going to be tough. You're going to Laban's house and going to be there. You're going to wonder if you're ever going to get out. It's going to feel like slavery, but remember I will not leave you. I will always be there for you. I will eventually return you even if it takes decades, and that in fact is what happens. Let's color this another color. Let's color it green. "Ki lo e'ezavcha," because I will not forsake you.
Well, is there an idea of not forsaking people, not forgetting people, same language of azivah, of leaving people behind? Lo and behold it's right over here -- there it is. "V'halevi asher bisharech lo ta'azvenu," don't forget the Levite and there's that exact same language. Do not leave them behind. The root ayin-zayin-beit, do not leave them behind.
Look how remarkable this is. You have this whole section over here -- whole section over here. Look how it goes. It is orange, blue, orange, red, green on the right-hand side; orange, blue, orange, red and green on the left-hand side. This is one big section in the chiasm. So the chiasm goes, right? Right over here we start with light-blue, light-blue to red, red to pink. Again from the top of Deuteronomy, light-blue to red to pink and then in each case you have this big section, this big section we call orange, blue, orange, red, orange, green in both sections. Orange, blue, orange, red and green; this big section all together.
Then the chiasm continues. Keep on reading a little bit earlier in the Jacob and the ladder story; is going to appear the next phase of the Deuteronomy story. Let me find it for you. The last idea I think that I can find it in this chiasm is when God introduces himself and says to Jacob "ani Hashem Elokei Avraham avicha," I am the God of your forefather Abraham and your forefather Isaac, "ha'aretz asher atah shochev aleha lecha etnenah ul'zarecha," right? The land that I am going to give you -- let's call this a new color; let's make this purple. This land that I'm going to give you, "ha'aretz asher atah shochev aleha lecha etnenah ul'zarecha." This land that I'm giving to you, this land that you're sleeping on, Jacob, I'm eventually going to give it to you. Even though you're going into exile, trust me. You'll be back; I'm going to give you this land.
Well, let's keep on reading Deuteronomy, after all this orange is there anything that reminds us of this. Now remember, in a chiastic structure each of the chiastic pairs A, B, C, D, E, E, D, C, B, A; each one of those pairs A to A, B to B, C to C, D to D, there's always sort of two possibilities. One possibility is that the pair mirrors it and it's exactly the same thing. A reminds you of A, B reminds you of B. The other possibility is that they're opposites of each other. A reminds you of the opposite of A, B reminds of the opposite of B and we can mix and match, right? A can remind you of the same thing over here, B can remind you of the opposite.
Over here you have an opposite. What is the opposite of the land that you have that's all going to be yours? The opposite is right over here. Remember Deuteronomy, who do you have to not leave behind? Don't leave behind the Levite, why not? "Ki ein lo chelek v'nachalah imach," because he does not have any land. Well, what's the opposite of I'm giving you the land? The opposite of I'm giving you the land is that somebody doesn't have a land. Even as you have the land, remember the Levite who doesn't have the land.
Now, there's more to this pattern then this. Another part of this pattern is the idea of gates. You take a look at the notion of sha'ar, of gates, that we just made so much of in the Deuteronomy on the left-hand side; look at gates on the right-hand side. Where do we have gates? Of course the answer is in Verse 17, right over here, you see this? Let's highlight this in a different color. Let's call this highlight yellow.
What does Jacob say? "Ein zeh ki im beit Elokim v'zeh sha'ar hashamayim," this is the House of God, "v'zeh sha'ar hashamayim," this is literally the gates of heaven, it says. He's in awe, "mah nora hamakom hazeh," how awesome is this place and "zeh sha'ar hashamayim" -- and of course over here on the left-hand side we have all of these gates, but not God's gate; your gate. Remember the Levite, the Levite in your gates, remember the poor person in your gates, remember all these people in your gates. So you have your gates mirrored by God's gates in this story.
What did Jacob do? "Vayira vayomar mah nora hamakom hazeh," where is that? That's in Verse 17 in the story of Jacob, right? "Mah nora hamakom hazeh" -- let's color that in a light-purple highlight. "Vayira vayomar mah nora hamakom hazeh." Where do we have that over here on the left-hand side? Jacob is in awe and he says how awesome is this place.
Let's see if I can find it in my notes. Here you go. Remember "l'ma'an tilmad l'yirah et Hashem Elokecha?" It seems part of this pattern also, this purple part of the pattern. So after -- "l'ma'an tilmad l'yirah et Hashem Elokecha kol hayamim."
Take a look at all this. What does it all mean to you? What it suggests to me broadly speaking, and I will let you kind of play with it and see what you think, but I think the pattern is remarkable and I suspect that there is a great deal of meaning to be uncovered. I just saw recently this and I haven't really gotten around to thinking about all of its implications, but let me just tell you just sort of off the cuff what I think, you know, some of it seems to mean.
What is the basic idea of these tithes? Why is that second tithe, the tithe of actually coming to Jerusalem with food, why is that a thing? Like, why is that even something we do? The reason is "l'ma'an tilmad l'yirah et Hashem Elokecha," so you should learn to fear God, so you should be in awe of God. What does that really mean?
It seems like the whole purpose of this tithe is to echo something in the story. Remember if you look at the Jacob's ladder story, it's interesting that Jacob never does this. He promises giving a tenth, but never really does it. When does Jacob give a tenth of his things to God? The answer the Torah might give is that this is the law of tithing.
One of the themes of Aleph Beta which we sometimes talk about a little bit is -- if you take a look at -- a lot of our videos, especially from our second year of parshah, we talked about this theme how our stories become our laws, that sometimes we have these stories that develop into laws. I think here, too, you have a story that's kind of developing into a law. The story of the ladder is developing into the law of tithes.
It's almost like God is saying well, Jacob, you know, you never really got a chance to give that tithe, did you? All of your children are going to give tithe; all of your children are going to give that tithe; all of the Bnei Yisrael, all of the children of Israel, all the children of Jacob, they are eventually going to give that tithe and they are going to do it in a way -- right? In other words, it's like, Jacob says so God, I'm going to tithe to you, I'm going to give you all this stuff. So what do you give the person, the being who has everything? What is it that you're going to give God? I mean, what is it that God really needs? God has everything.
So God says look, I don't need anything -- I don't need anything, you need it. Take the tithe and you yourself eat it, but here is what I want you to do. I want you to remember. I want you to remember the promise I made to you, the fact that I fulfilled that promise. Because when you were on the run, when you were an evyon, when you were a poor person, when you had nothing, you didn't even have any food, you didn't have anything, you didn't have clothes to wear, you had nothing, you begged me and you asked me for help and I promised you that I would always be with you. I promised that I wouldn't leave you until I had brought you back here; that you were leaving the land of Israel, but you would eventually come back and I would assuredly bring you back and I would spread you out throughout the whole land, remember when I keep that promise.
When I keep that promise, when ultimately I bring Jacob back, when ultimately after 400 years of Egypt you come through with signs and wonders back into the land, when that happens, remember; remember that promise when I told you I wouldn't leave you. Remember that I fulfilled that promise. Therefore, come and bring the tithe.
Wherever you are, you're all spread out all over the place, come to that one place. Come to that place that Jacob in his dream said "zeh sha'ar hashamayim," this is the gates of heaven; this is the House of God. Come to that place, build me that place. Build the rest of it. Jacob put the first stone in; you guys put the rest of the stones until you build that whole edifice, that House of God.
Then come to that House of God from all of the far places that I promised that I would spread you throughout the whole land. Come even if it's far, even if you have to buy things with the tithe and then come and redeem the money when you get there to transport it. Do that and come and feast and when you do it learn, learn to do what? To be in awe of me because when tithing was first conceived of by Jacob, when he first made that promise that he would give me a tenth, when he did that, he was in awe. He couldn't believe that this is the nexus between the heaven and earth. Well, you're going to be living on the nexus of heaven and earth.
Therefore, come to that place and try to experience a little bit of that awe that Jacob had when he had that dream. When you eat there and when you thank God for bringing him back and not leaving Jacob behind, experience that awe, but don't just experience that awe, do what I did. Learn to do what I did. What did I do? When Jacob was an evyon, when Jacob was a poor guy just on the run and he was desperate and he needed food, I promised him I would not leave him, I would take care of him. Therefore, you emulate me.
When you are going to have or be the one to provide, when you're going to have all the riches and you're going to have this great feast and you'll have this great food in Jerusalem, you share. You take care and you make sure not to forsake those who don't have anything, just like I didn't forsake Jacob when he didn't have anything. You take care, make sure not to leave behind the Levite, the Levite doesn't have any of the land. You take care of the Levite, you take care of the poor person; Jacob was a poor person on the run. Jacob had nothing. Jacob was like an orphan without a father when he went into Laban's house. He was so desperate for a father to take him in. He was like -- you take care of the orphan and the widow too because God took care of you that way.
You thought of this place, this special place as the gate of heaven. Well, you're going to be -- in the Jacob story I was the provider, God was the provider. You were in my gates, the gates of heaven and I took care of you. So when you're the provider in the Land of Israel, I'm going to take care of you. So then you're the provider, you're going to have gates. Remember, there are poor people in your gates; there is a Levite in your gates. Make sure you take care of those people also.
I think this is a fascinating example of stories becoming laws. There's an intricate chiastic pattern here, an interesting A"t-Ba"sh pattern. The Torah wants you to understand what tithing is about, what the second tithe is about, what all of these tithings are about. The various three different kinds of tithing are the three different ways that we respond to the promise and the counter-promise that God made to Jacob and that Jacob made to God in turn.
When that promise is fulfilled, when God has fulfilled His promise then the way we take tithes in aggregate is our complete response to that. We come to God's house and we share that bounty and we enjoy that bounty and we understand that God has fulfilled His promise, we've come to that place, that place from Jacob's dream and we take care of those who are less fortunatem the way that God took care of Jacob when he was less fortunate too. Together these become the laws of tithing.
That's what I wanted to share with you, that's what I have come up with lately. I'm actually in the middle of building this out into -- this is really just a little piece of what I think is a much larger, astonishing kaleidoscope of stories connected to Jacob's ladder. This is one piece of Jacob's ladder. Jacob's ladder becomes the basis for the laws of tithing, but there are many other aspects of the Jacob's ladder story and how the Jacob's ladder story interfaces with many, many other aspects of the Five Books of Moses.
I have been working on that lately and I can't wait to share some of that with you so I will try and do that in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, write your comments, give me your thoughts. I would love to hear what you guys think of this. If there's anything I missed, put it down in the comments and I'll try to read it through and hear what it is that you have to say.
Thank you so much for listening and in the meantime, until next time this is David Fohrman, Aleph Beta offices, signing out.