Our Torah portion this week includes Jacob's dream of a ladder (סֻלָּם) extending from earth to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending, and the LORD Himself standing above assuring Jacob of his safe return to the land he had fled. Jacob awoke and responded to the dream with awe: "Surely the LORD is in this place (בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה), and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." And he called the name of that place Bethel (בֵּית־אֵל) i.e., "the house of God."
The sages explain that ha-makom (הַמָּקוֹם), literally "the place" that Jacob saw, was actually Mount Moriah, the location where Jacob's father Isaac was bound as the "sacrificed seed" and which later became the site of the Holy Temple. The word makom comes from a verb (קוּם) meaning "to arise," suggesting resurrection and ascension. In later Rabbinical thought Ha-Makom became synonymous with the name of God Himself ("God is the place of the world, but the world is not God's only place").
Yeshua referred to Jacob's dream when he said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (John 1:51). Just as Jacob saw the ladder ascending to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, so Yeshua told Nathanael that He was the Ladder to God, the sha'ar ha-shamayim (שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם) - the way into heaven (John 14:6). Indeed, Yeshua is the true Place or "house of God" and its Chief Cornerstone (Rosh Pinnah, Matt. 21:42). The LORD is the resurrection and life, the One who prepares a place for you (John 11:25; 14:2).
Note: For more information, please read the Torah summary page for Vayetzei and its related articles. You can also download the Shabbat "Table Talk" for the portion here:
Rosh Chodesh marks the start of a new month in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish sages metaphorically considered the lunar cycle to be a picture of ongoing "sacrifice and restoration." The renewal of the moon (i.e., the first crescent) was regarded as a kind of "rebirth" that issued from the previous service of the month (i.e., the moon's "self-diminution," or waning to complete darkness). On the Biblical calendar the month of Kislev (כִּסְלֵו) is the ninth month of the year (counting from the first month of Nisan), which this year begins Saturday, November 2nd (after sundown).
The month of Kislev is one of the "darkest" months of the year, with the days progressively getting shorter and the nights getting longer. Indeed, the Winter Solstice often occurs during the last week of Kislev, and therefore the week of Chanukah (which straddles the months of Kislev and Tevet) often contains the longest night of the year. It is no wonder that, among other things, Chanukah represents an appropriate time to kindle the lights of faith - and to remember the Light of the World in the Messiah's advent to earth...
A Month of Dreams
Chodesh Kislev is sometimes called the "month of dreams" because the four weekly Torah portions for this month contain more dreams than any other in the Scriptures. No less than nine dreams (of the ten in the Torah) appear in the four portions of Vayetzei, Vayeshev, and Miketz - which are all read during the month of Kislev. In the Torah, the primary figure connected with dreams is Jacob's son Joseph, who was nicknamed by his brothers as "that dreamer" and who was later named "Decipherer of Secrets" (Tzofnat Paneach) by Pharaoh (Gen. 41:45). Joseph was able to authentically mediate the spiritual and the physical realms through the Spirit of God within him (Gen. 41:38). Prophetically Joseph represents Yeshua the "disguised Egyptian" who likewise was rejected and hated by his brothers - but who later became their savior (for more on this, see "Mashiach ben Yosef").
A Month of Hope
Some of the commentators think the name Kislev comes from a root (כּסל) that means "trust" or "hope." In the Scriptures the root appears in several places, including: "And they placed in God their hope (כִּסְלָם)" (Psalm 78:7); and, "Did I place my hope (כִּסְלִי) in gold?" (Job 31:24). Interestingly, the root can also refer to foolishness, suggesting that the wisdom of God (i.e., His "dream" for saving humanity through Yeshua) often appears as foolishness to men (1 Cor. 3:19). If Yeshua was born during Sukkot (i.e., Tabernacles), then it is likely that He was conceived during Chanukah - perhaps near the Winter Solstice itself. The true Light - that enlightens everyone - would shine in the darkest night of this world (John 1:9; 1 John 2:8).
Chodesh Tov to you all, chaverim. Remember that the Divine Light shines like a fire and yet does not destroy or consume. The light of God does not necessarily take away the darkness but always overcomes it and shines within it: "The darkness and the light are both alike unto Thee" (Psalm 139:12; John 1:5). May this month be one of blessing and the Presence of the Divine Light of Yeshua within your hearts (John 8:12).
The Month of Chanukah
This year the month of Kislev will begin Saturday, November 22nd after sundown, which means that the eight-day festival of Chanukah will begin on Teus., Dec. 16th at sundown (1st candle) and will run through Teus., Dec. 23rd.
Rosh Chodesh Blessing
The following (simplified) blessing can be recited to ask the LORD God Almighty to help you for the coming new month:
Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah). The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.