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When they were up they were up, and when they were down they were down…

Written by d fine

As Yaakov dreams, he sees a ladder with angels going ‘up and down’ (28:12). Why were these angels running up and down? For, as Rashi tells us, the angels of Eretz Yisrael were going back up to Heaven, with the angels of chutz l’aretz coming down to escort Yaakov out of the Land. There’s only one problem here. Yaakov was currently at the place of the (future) Beis Hamikdash; which certainly is not on the border of chutz l’aretz by any means. So why were the angels switching over? There are two main answers here. The Maharal answers that the angels were not appointed over the geographic areas of Eretz Yisrael and chutz l’aretz, but rather they were in charge of matters pertaining to Eretz Yisrael and chutz l’aretz (respectively). Thus, though Yaakov was not out of Eretz Yisrael yet, since he was going towards chutz l’aretz then the angels which are in charge of chutz l’aretz related activities took over to escort Yaakov there. There’s another answer though; one based on an important lesson in life. As Rav Yerucham points out, one’s religious level is measured by where one is heading. Thus, Rachav the harlot managed to jump to levels which the holy ten spies faulted at – for she was on her way up, whilst they were on a spiritual downturn. Similarly, Rav Shalom Shwadron commented that we say baruch shem kevod out loud in the first Ma’ariv of Yom Kippur (for we take on the spiritual heights of angels) whilst we go back to saying it quietly in the first Ma’ariv after Yom Kippur. Why; surely we are at a greater spiritual level after Yom Kippur has finished? Rav Shalom answered that at the onset of Yom Kippur we are looking forward to Teshuva (so we are at spiritual heights), whilst at the Ma’ariv after Yom Kippur we may be spiritually cleaner, but what are we looking forward to? Food! That’s why we are no longer on the level of angels.
The same is true in our sedra; precisely because Yaakov is heading to chutz l’aretz, he takes on the status of being part of chutz l’aretz – and that’s why the angels of chutz l’aretz came down already to escort him. The moral? Keep on growing and heading upwards in life!

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