House of God

The story of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:10ff) uses three place names for the same spot: “Gate of Heaven” and “Beth-El [House of God]” as well as Luz, discussed yesterday.

The name “Beth El” is the center of a Talmudic commentary:

R. Eleazar also said, What is meant by the verse, “And many people shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob’” [Isaiah 2:3]. ‘The God of Jacob,’ but not the God of Abraham and Isaac?

Not like Abraham, in connection with whom ‘mountain’ is written, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mountain where the Lord is seen’ (Gen. 22:14). Nor like Isaac, in connection with whom ‘field’ is written, as it is said, ‘And Isaac when out to meditate in the field at eventide’ [Gen. 24:63]. But like Jacob, who called Him ‘home’, as it is said, ‘And he called the name of that place Beth-el [God is a home].
— Pesachim 88a, adapted from Soncino public-domain translation

—Soninco adds this note on the final verse: [Gen. 28:19] Visits to the mountain and the held are only made at certain times, but a home is permanent. Thus this teaches that man must live permanently in God.

Rav Kook expands this commentary:

What did the Sages mean by ‘mountain,’ ‘field,’ and ‘house’? On a simple level, these locations refer to momentous occasions in the lives of the Avot [fathers]. Abraham’s greatest service of God was the spiritual test of the Akeidah that took place on Mount Moriah. Isaac, the Torah tells us, would meditate in the field (Gen. 24:63). And Jacob named the place of awe-inspiring holiness that he encountered Beth-El, ‘God’s house.’

Yet these locations carry a deeper significance. Mountain, field, and house are metaphors for different ways of serving God. The service of Abraham and Isaac was a universalistic service, accessible to all. It was like a mountain or an open field; all were welcome to join in. Abraham, the “father of many nations,” sought to repair the sin of Adam and assist all of humanity. His life’s goal was to publicize the name of God for all peoples. Isaac similarly sanctified the name of Heaven throughout the world.

While Abraham and Isaac looked outwards, Jacob focused inwards. By speaking of ‘God’s house,’ Jacob limited the holiness of Israel to the framework of his family, his home of twelve sons. Beit Yisrael, the House of Israel. Unlike Abraham and Isaac, Jacob’s children all remained within the Jewish people. While Abraham and Isaac’s influence was inclusive and universal, Jacob’s service was exclusive to Israel; thus it is aptly represented by the metaphor of an enclosed house….
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Rabbi Shefa Gold developed a three-part chant focusing on Jacob’s reaction to the ladder dream.

As part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), a cousin of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), “A Song Every Day” plans thirty daily posts with some connection to the number 30.NaBloPoMo_November_blogroll_large

This particular post is only tangnetially related to the number 30, through the numerical value of the first letter of the Hebrew word “Luz.”

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

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