Ya’akov flees from the wrath of Esav to his relations in Haran. On the way he stops to sleep, in the very place interpreted by the Sages as Mount Moriah, upon which Avraham bound Yitzchak. The Sages also said that Ya’akov stopped here to pray before going to sleep, thereby inaugurating Ma’ariv, the Evening Service. While asleep, Ya’akov had a dream.
Dreams have always fascinated people even back to ancient times. Sigmund Freud, in his book “The Interpretation of Dream”, thinks all dreams, even the most ridiculous, have significance. He thinks dreams represent the subconscious, ideas which are suppressed during waking hours.
The theme of dreams runs through Bereishit, the first dream being Ya’akov’s dream of the ladder with angels ascending and descending to and from Heaven. This is Hashem’s way of sending a message to Ya’akov that he will never be alone because the angels will always accompany him. In his dream, Ya’akov saw Hashem standing over him and promising him and his descendants the land on which he was resting for ever, and that he would return home under Hashem’s protection. When he awoke Ya’akov built an altar on the same stone he had used as a pillow and offered one tenth of his possessions to Hashem. From this we have the idea that we should give one tenth of our possessions to tzedaka, charity, every year. Rabbi Grunewald, in a devar in 2013, says that in the Zohar, the ladder was Ya’akov himself, represented as a man with his feet firmly on the ground but his head reaching to Heaven. On the one hand he was a practical man of action and a diplomat. On the other hand he was spiritual, striving to reach Hashem and devoting himself to religious teachings. The promise of the land means that the Jewish people would be able to conquer the land if they love it. Attachment to the land gives the strength and resolve to end all problems.
The gematria for the “ladder” of prayer is the same for “ladder” and “voice”, symbolising that just as the ladder in Ya’akov’s dream connected heaven and earth, so also do our prayers connect us with Heaven.