Dreams and Ladders
Reading our parasha we can see that Yaakov has a very close acquaintance with dreams and angels. At the beginning of the parasha, when Yaakov Avinu starts his long adventure, he gets a chance to see angels. In a spectacular scene, he sees them going up and down the ladder symbolizing the close escort Hashem is giving him, not only in Eretz Yisrael, but wherever he will be going. But his story with dreams and angels goes on. At the very end of the parasha, when he is finally on his way back from Lavan, he meets angels again. 'ויעקב הלך לדרכו ויפגעו בו מלאכי אלוקים.. ויקרא שם המקום ההוא מחניים'
When thinking about the significance of dreams, one might think that they are simply a biological phenomenon which is crucial for health but with no spiritual meaning. Reading our parasha might hint the opposite. Yaakov Avinu’s dreams aren’t a small episode. They stand as crucial parts of his story. Being a dreamer is what energized him to overcome all the obstacles he encountered during his adventure at Lavan’s house. Knowing that Hashem is guarding him and constantly taking care of him gave Yaakov the strength to cope with everything.
In the opening of his famous book, Hakuzari, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi tells the story about the king of Kuzar who constantly dreamed about an angel telling him the same message again and again: 'כוונתך רצויה אבל מעשיך אינם רצויים' (Your intentions are great, but your actions are not). According to the book, that dream started and generated the whole journey, eventually driving the king to the Jewish world.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook points out that, based on the story of Yaakov Avinu, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi is suggesting the important role dreams and goals should have in our lives. The king of Kuzar could have ignored the frequent vision he saw, telling himself he shouldn’t start searching for a new path in his life. But instead, the king let himself enter the mysterious door the dream symbolized, despite the prices he had to pay by doing so.
Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook once wrote that: ‘The biggest dreams of all are the most essential foundations of the world’, meaning that while we tend to look at dreams and dreamers as ones who put the known environment in danger we should treat them as a lighthouse in the darkness. One’s dream is a path he should walk through, striving towards a new level. The dream you have is your mission in the world and only if you work towards it you can say that you were trying to fulfill it.
Yaakov Avinu managed to deal with his complicated life because he devoted himself to fulfill the vision of his life, building Am Yisrael through diversity and difficulties.