THE VISION OF JACOB AT BETHEL
"BETTER is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof" (Eccles. 7:8). The first blessings wherewith Isaac blessed Jacob were concerning the dews of heaven, and concerning the corn of the earth, as it is said, "And God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth" (Gen. 27:28). The final blessings were the blessings of the foundation of the world, and in them there is no (interruption), either in this world or in the world to come, as it is said, "And God Almighty bless thee" (Gen. 28:3). And he further added unto him the blessing of Abraham, || as it is said, "And may he give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee" (Gen. 28:4). Therefore (say): "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof" (Eccles. 7:8). "Better is the patient in spirit than the proud in spirit" (ibid.). "Better is the patient in spirit"—this (saying) is applicable to our father Jacob, for every day he was patient in spirit, and he spake all kinds of words of entreaty. (The words) "than the proud in spirit" (ibid.) refer to the wicked Esau, because every day he was eating the flesh of that which he had hunted. Owing to his pride he did not give any of his food to Jacob. Once he went out to hunt but he did not meet with any success. He saw Jacob eating lentil food, and he desired this in his heart, and he said to him: "Let me gulp down, I pray thee, some of that red pottage" (Gen. 25:30). Jacob said to him: Thou camest forth red at thy birth from thy mother; (now) thou dost desire to eat (this) red food; therefore he called his name "Edom" (red), as it is said, "And Esau said to Jacob" (ibid.).
Rabbi Eliezer said: Lentils are the food of mourning and sorrow. Know thou that this is so, for when Abel had been killed, his parents were eating lentil food (as a sign) of their mourning for him in mourning and sorrow. And Jacob was eating lentil food in mourning and sorrow because the kingdom, the dominion, and the birthright belonged to Esau. Moreover, on that day Abraham, his grandfather, died. The Israelites eat lentil food in mourning and sorrow on account of the mourning || and sorrow for the Temple, and on account of the exile of Israel. Hence thou mayest learn that the children of Esau will not fall until a remnant from Israel shall come and give to the children of Esau lentil food in mourning and sorrow, and will take away from them the dominion of the kingdom and the birthright, which Jacob acquired from (Esau) by oath, as it is said, "And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him" (Gen. 25:33).
Rabbi ' Aḳiba said: Every place where our forefathers went, the well went in front of them, and they dug three times and found it before them. Abraham dug three times and found it before him, as it is said, "And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham" (Gen. 26:18). And Isaac dug in the land (of Canaan) four times, and found it before him, as it is said, "And Isaac's servants digged in the valley" (Gen. 26:19). And it is written about Jerusalem, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem" (Zech. 14:8). This refers to the well which will arise in Jerusalem in the future, and will water all its surroundings. Because they found (the well) seven times, he called it Shib'ah (seven).
Jacob was seventy-seven years old when he went forth from his father's house, and the well went before him. From Beer-Sheba as far as Mount Moriah is a journey of two days, || and he arrived there at midday, and the Holy One, blessed be He, met him, as it is said, "And he met in the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set" (Gen. 28:11). Why is the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, called Maḳom? Because in every place where the righteous are He is found with them there, as it is said, "In every place (Maḳom) where I record my name I will come unto thee, and bless thee" (Ex. 20:21). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Jacob ! The bread is in thy bag, and the well is before thee, so that thou mayest eat and drink and sleep in this place. He said before Him: Sovereign of all the worlds ! Till now the sun has still fifty degrees to set, and I am lying down in this place. And (thereupon) the sun set in the west, although not in its proper time. Jacob looked and saw the sun setting in the west, and he tarried there, as it is said, "And he tarried there all night, because the sun was set" (Gen. 28:11).
Jacob took twelve stones of the stones of the altar, whereon his father Isaac had been bound, and he set them for his pillow in that place, to indicate to himself that twelve tribes were destined to arise from him. And they all became one stone, to indicate to him that all (the tribes) were destined to become one people on the earth, as it is said, "And who is like thy people Israel, a nation that is alone on the earth" (1 Chron. 17:21).
Rabbi Levi said: In that night the Holy One, blessed be He, showed him all the signs. He showed him a ladder standing from the earth to the heaven, as it is said, "And he dreamed, and behold || a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven" (Gen. 28:12). And the ministering angels were ascending and descending thereon, and they beheld the face of Jacob, and they said: This is the face like the face of the Chayyah, which is on the Throne of Glory. Such (angels) who were (on earth) below were ascending to see the face of Jacob among the faces of the Chayyah, (for it was) like the face of the Chayyah, which is on the Throne of Glory. Some (angels) ascended and some descended, as it is said, "And behold the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (ibid.). The Holy One, blessed be He, showed him the four kingdoms, their rule and their destruction, and He showed him the prince of the kingdom of Babylon ascending [seventy rungs, and descending; and He showed him the prince of the kingdom of] Media ascending fifty-two rungs and descending; [and He showed him the prince of the kingdom of Greece ascending 180 ascents and descending;] and He showed him the prince of the kingdom of Edom ascending, and he was not descending, but was saying, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:14). Jacob replied to him: "Yet thou shalt be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit" (Isa. 14:15). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Even "though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle" (Jer. 49:16).
Jacob rose up early in the morning in great fear, and said: The house of the Holy One, blessed be He, is in this place, as it is said, "And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place ! this is none other but the house of God" (Gen. 28:17). Hence thou canst learn that every one who prays in Jerusalem is (reckoned) as though he had prayed before the Throne of Glory, for the gate of heaven is there, and it is open to hear the prayers of Israel, as it is said, "And this is the gate of heaven" (ibid.).
And Jacob returned to gather the stones, and he found them all (turned into) one stone, and he set || it up for a pillar in the midst of the place, and oil descended for him from heaven, and he poured it thereon, as it is said, "And he poured oil upon the top of it" (Gen. 28:18). What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He placed (thereon) His right foot, and sank the stone to the bottom of the depths, and He made it the keystone of the earth, just like a man who sets a keystone in an arch; therefore it is called the foundation stone, for there is the navel of the earth, and therefrom was all the earth evolved, and upon it the Sanctuary of God stands, as it is said, "And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house" (Gen. 28:22).
And Jacob fell upon his face to the ground before the foundation stone, and he prayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, saying: Sovereign of all worlds ! If Thou wilt bring me back to this place in peace, I will sacrifice before Thee offerings of thanksgiving and burnt offerings, as it is said, "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying" (Gen. 28:20). There he left the well, and thence he lifted up his feet, and in the twinkle of the eye he came to Haran, as it is said, "And Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the children of the east" (Gen. 29:1); and the (text) says, "And Jacob went from Beer-Sheba, and went to Haran" (Gen. 28:10). "And the Holy God is sanctified in righteousness" (Isa. 5:16). The angels answered and said: Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Holy God.