(א) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּ֒שָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לַעֲסֹק בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה:
(1) Blessed are You, Adonoy our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with commandments and commanded us to be engrossed in the words of Torah.
Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran. He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. And Hashem was standing beside him and He said, “I am Hashem, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely Hashem is present in this place, and I did not know it!” Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He named that site Bethel; but previously the name of the city had been Luz. Jacob then made a vow, saying, “If God remains with me, if [God] protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father’s house—Hashem shall be my God. And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, shall be God’s abode; and of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You.”
אכן יש ה' במקום הזה, there can be no question that this is a location from where the gift of prophetic insights is dispensed, seeing that I have been granted such an insight without even having expected it or prepared myself for it spiritually. It is a fact that the characteristics of a person undergo changes in the land of Israel just as the climate and very air in this country are different, contribute to one’s mental and spiritual progress. Our sages have phrased this (Baba Batra 158) as “the very air of the Land of Israel makes one wiser.”
וזה שער השמים. הזכיר הכתוב ג' פעמים זה. ואמרו רז"ל הראהו בהמ"ק בנו וחרב ובנוי. בנוי מה נורא המקום הזה, חרב אין זה, ובנוי וזה שער השמים. ולפ"ז לא ירמוז הכתוב רק שני מקדשים בלבד. ויתכן לפרש שיש בכתוב רמז לשלשה מקדשים ממה שידוע כי מלת זה רמז לשכינה כמו (שמות ט״ו:ב׳) זה אלי ואנוהו. ..
ובמדרש וזה שער השמים, מכאן אתה למד שהמתפלל בירושלים כאלו מתפלל לפני כסא הכבוד, ששער השמים הוא פתוח לשמוע תפלתן של ישראל שנאמר וזה שער השמים. והכונה כי הוא שער השמים לעלות משם התפלות והקרבנות.
. וזה שער השמים, “and this must be the gate to heaven.” The expression זה occurs three times in this verse. Bereshit Rabbah 69,7 therefore claims that G’d showed Yaakov a Temple built and destroyed; when Yaakov saw the Temple built, he exclaimed: “how awesome is this place!” When he was shown the Temple ruined, he exclaimed אין זה, “this cannot be!” When he was finally shown the Temple rebuilt, he exclaimed “this must be the gateway to heaven.” According to this version of the Midrash G’d showed Yaakov only two Temples. It is possible to explain our verse in a manner which shows that it contains allusions to all three Temples. It is a well known fact that the word זה on occasion serves as an allusion to G’d, such as in Exodus 15,2 זה אלי ואנוהו, ”this is my G’d and I want to glorify Him.” ....
There is a Midrash in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 35 referring to the words: וזה שער השמים, “and this is the gateway to heaven.” According to this Midrash we learn from this verse that when one prays in Jerusalem one is as if praying opposite the gateway to the celestial Sanctuary, to the throne of G’d’s glory. The meaning of the Midrash is that from Jerusalem, the gateway to heaven, prayers ascend to their ultimate destination.
If God remains with me, to remove from me all the pressures which I am under, pressures which prevent man from giving his attention to matters which should receive his attention, i.e. to G’d and what He expects from man. What troubled Yaakov was what our sages in Eyruvin 41 described as the three problems which are liable to unbalance someone’s mind as well as his relationship to his Creator. They are: gentiles, being involved personally in natural disasters, and excessive poverty.
והיה ה' לי לאלהים AND IF HASHEM WILL BE MY GOD, in that [God's] Name shall rest upon me from the beginning to the end: that no unworthy person shall be found in my descendants (Sifré, ואתחנן 31) — just as it is said (v. 15), “I will do that which I spake concerning thee”; and this promise He made to Abraham, as it is said (17:7) “To be a God unto thee and unto thy seed after thee”,
וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם (בראשית כח, יא), בִּקֵּשׁ לַעֲבֹר נַעֲשָׂה הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ כְּמִין כּוֹתֶל לְפָנָיו. (בראשית כח, יא): כִּי בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, רַבָּנָן אָמְרֵי כִּיבָּא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, מְלַמֵּד שֶׁהִשְׁקִיעַ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גַּלְגַּל חַמָּה שֶׁלֹא בְּעוֹנָתָהּ בִּשְׁבִיל לְדַבֵּר עִם יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ בְּצִנְעָה, מָשָׁל לְאוֹהֲבוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ שֶׁבָּא אֶצְלוֹ לִפְרָקִים, אָמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּיבּוּ אֶת הַנֵּרוֹת כִּיבּוּ אֶת הַפָּנָסִין שֶׁאֲנִי מְבַקֵּשׁ לְדַבֵּר עִם אוֹהֲבִי בְּצִנְעָה. כָּךְ הִשְׁקִיעַ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גַּלְגַּל חַמָּה שֶׁלֹא בְּעוֹנָתָהּ בִּשְׁבִיל לְדַבֵּר עִם יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ בְּצִנְעָה.
He encountered the Place (Bereishit 28:11). He wanted to pass and the whole world became like a wall in front of him. For the sun had set (ki va). The Rabbis said, He extinguished the sun (kibah). This comes to teach that God caused the sun’s sphere to set before its time in order to speak to our father Ya’akov in private. It is analogous to the lover of a king who came to him infrequently. The king said, “Extinguish the lamps and extinguish the lanterns for I want to speak with my lover in private!” So God caused the sun’s sphere to set before its time in order to speak with our father Ya’akov in private.
(trans. Dena Weiss)
Dena Weiss, "Praying as You Are" at https://www.hadar.org/torah-resource/praying-you-are#source-6863
Ya’akov meets God at a time of profound difficulty and fear. When Ya’akov prays to God it is described as va-yifga, a chance encounter. Ya’akov stumbles, and is forced to stumble upon divinity. The darkness of Ya’akov’s introduction to God is in stark contrast with the brightness of God’s introducing Himself to Avraham. For Avraham, God lights the lights and is pleased when Avraham notices how well-managed the world appears. For Ya’akov, God extinguishes the lights, intensifying Ya’akov’s already tense and frightened state of mind. Yet the darkness of Ya’akov’s meeting has the privacy and intimacy that is engendered by vulnerability. God is able to forge a connection to Ya’akov by embracing and being present in his fear. And God builds upon Avraham’s sense of security by reassuring him that He is the owner of the world and its custodian. In the midrash about Avraham in the morning, God promises him a world with even more beauty and expects Avraham to worship Him through it. In the midrash about Ya’akov at night, we don’t hear that God promises Ya’akov anything or demands anything from him. When Ya’akov is feeling weak and helpless, God simply listens to him and promises to be with him.