The reality of dreams

This week’s Torah portion opens with one of the clearest yet most enigmatic images in the text of Torah. The dreams play an essential part in the Torah narrative. Here Jacob envisages the scene which later became one of the core archetypes of the Western culture יַּחֲלֹ֗ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה סֻלָּם֙ מֻצָּ֣ב אַ֔רְצָה וְרֹאשׁ֖וֹ מַגִּ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וְהִנֵּה֙ מַלְאֲכֵ֣י אֱלֹהִ֔יםלִ֥ים וְיֹרְדִ֖ים בּֽוֹ Jacob’s ladder has been depicted by many artists and came to represent the connection between human consciousness and our unconscious side.

The commentators have analyzed in great detail every single word of this verse, comparing this episode with the revelation on Mount Sinai, since the gematria of “sulam” and “Sinai” is the same and equals 130. Indeed, these two episodes might be compared to each other but here we are dealing with the highly personalized episode of an intimate connection to God.

No wonder Jacob felt unsure about the whole experience. Thus, according to Or HaChaim, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, “The Torah added the word והנה to indicate that in this dream every detail appeared to Jacob as especially vivid and significant. He had total recall of everything he dreamed and referred to each detail later on. This is why the word והנה is repeated before every segment of the dream”.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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