Article -

Sleeper, awake!

Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman

Sleeper, awake!

And Jacob went out…

Jacob has taken the big step of leaving home, ostensibly to find a wife from among his relatives in Haran, but actually to escape his brother`s vengeance. The mother`s boy is exhausted. Night settles early and Jacob “happens on a place (maqom)”. Bedding down, he places a stone or stones from the place (maqom) beside/under his head and dreams of a סלם fixed on the ground and reaching toward the heavens. Pay attention to these two items, the ladder and the stones, for their symbolic development.

In the dream God renews his covenant with Abraham and Isaac, promising to give the land of Canaan to Jacob and his descendents and to bring Jacob back to the land from his sojourn abroad.

Jacob is jolted awake, realizing that this maqom is “the house of God and the gate of heaven”—and on rising early the next morning he sets up a memorial pillar with the stone(s) and (typical of his adolescent wheeling and dealing) vows 10% to God conditional upon his safe return home.

Jacob`s response to this revelation: “Indeed, God is in this place and I did not know,” tells us how unaware he has been, and how the sleeper needs to awaken.

How do artists portray the sleeper in stages toward wakefulness?

Article Sources:

Targum Yonatan Genesis 28:10
And he left - 5 miracles occurred as Jacob was leaving Beer Sheba: The first: the sun set before its time, because the Word wished to speak with him. The second: the four stones that he placed by his head were found to be one in the morning….
Rashi on Genesis 28:11
And he arrived at the place - Scripture does not mention which place, but [it means] the place mentioned elsewhere, which is Mount Moriah, concerning which it is said (Gen. 22:4): And he saw the place from afar...
because the sun had set - Heb. כי בא השמש. [Scripture] should have written [in reverse order]: And the sun set and he stayed there overnight.  [The expression] כי בא השמש implies that the sun set suddenly for him, not at its usual time, so that he would have to stay there overnight.
and placed [them] at his head - He arranged them in the form of a drainpipe around his head because he feared the wild beasts. They [the stones] started quarreling with one another. One said, “Let the righteous man lay his head on me,” and another one said, “Let him lay [his head] on me.” Immediately, the Holy One, blessed be He, made them into one stone. This is why it is stated (verse 18):“and he took the stone [in the singular] that he had placed at his head.”
and he lay down in that place [The word ההוא] is a restrictive expression, meaning that [only] in that place did he lie down,
 but during the fourteen years that he served in the house of Eber, he did not lie down at night, because he was engaged in Torah study.

Genesis Rabba 68, 11f.
Targum Yonatan Genesis 28:12
He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was fixed in the earth with its top reaching
the exit of the heavens and the two angels who had gone to Sodom (who had been banished from their positions because they revealed Divine secrets) and had been wandering around until the day  Jacob left his father`s house, graciously accompanied him to Bethel. On that day, they (i.e., the angels) ascended to the heavens
on high, and said, ‘Come and see Jacob the pious, whose image is fixed on the Throne
of Glory’
Targum Yerushalmi Genesis 28:12
And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was fixed on the earth and its head reached to the height of the heavens; and behold, the angels that had accompanied him from the house of his father ascended to bear good tidings to the angels on high, saying, Come and see the pious man whose image is engraved in the throne of Glory, whom you desired to see. And behold, the angels from before the Lord ascended and descended and observed him.

Genesis Rabba 68:12
And Jacob dreamt: Behold a sulam
R. Hiyya the Elder and R. Jannai disagreed. One maintained: They were ascending and descending the ladder; while the other said: they were ascending and descending on Jacob.
The explanation that they were ascending and descending the ladder presents no difficulty. 
But concerning the explanation that they were ascending and descending on Jacob, it must mean that some were exalting him and others degrading him, dancing, leaping and maligning him. Thus it says, Israel in whom I will be glorified (Isa 49:3).
Is it you [said the angels] whose features are engraved on high; they ascended on high and saw his features and they descended below and found him sleeping.
Another explanation of ascending and descending on him/it - ascending: those that accompanied him within Land of Israel; descending: those who accompanied him abroad.
Genesis Rabba 68:14
Another explanation: 
And behold a sulam - This is Nebuchadnezzar`s dream (Daniel 2): There appeared a great statue…;
standing on the earth: and its brightness surpassing, stood before you;
and its head reached the heavens: this statue that was huge;
and behold angels of God were ascending— two—and descending—two: these are the spirits of the four kingdoms with whose rule it ends;
ascending and descending - it is not written descending and ascending but ascending and descending: ascending and ascent there will indeed be, but each will be lower than its predecessor…
and behold the Lord stood on it: and in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will establish a king who will reign forever….
Genesis Rabba 69:3
And behold the Lord stood on it/him
R. Hiyya the Elder and R. Jannai disagreed. One maintained it means "on the ladder"; while the other said it means "on Jacob".  The explanation that it means "on the ladder" presents no difficulty. But concerning the explanation that it means "on Jacob," who could support (lit., stand for) Him? R. Yochanan said: The wicked are supported by their  gods, as it is said (Genesis 41) And Pharaoh dreamt and behold he was standing on the Nile, but the God of the righteous is supported by them, as it  is said And behold the Lord was standing on him and He said I am the Lord, the God of Abraham.
Genesis Rabba 69:7
Jacob awoke from his sleep - R. Yochana said, From his learning.
He said, The Lord is indeed in this place - Indeed the Shekinah is present in this place and I was not aware.
He was in awe and said, How awesome a place this is - R. Eliezer in the name of R.  Yossi b. Zimra said, This sulam reached from Beer Sheva to the Temple. How do we know this? And Jacob left from Beer Sheva - And he dreamed     and behold a sulam - And he was awed and said, How awesome a place  this is.
R. Judah b. Simeon said, This sulam reached from the Temple to Bethel. How do we know this? And he was awed and said, How awesome a place this is - And he called the place Bethel.
This is none other than the House of God and this is the Gate of Heaven - R. Aha said, This gate is destined to open to many righteous of your descendants.
R. Simeon b. Yochai said, The celestial Temple is only 18 miles above the earthly Temple. How do we know this? And this (וזה) is the Gate of Heaven - the numerical value of וזה is 18.
Another explanation - the Holy One showed Jacob the Temple—built, destroyed and  built: And he was awed and said, How awesome a place this is, viz. built, as is written (Ps 68) You are awesome, O God, in your holy places; this is no  other - viz., destroyed, as is written (Lam 5) Over this our heart is sick, over these our eyes are dim; than the House of God, viz., built and restored in the future, as is written (Ps 147) For he has strengthened the bars of your gates
Hekhalot Rabbati 11:2
Testify to them what you have seen Me do to the image of the face of Jacob our Father which I have engraved upon the throne of my glory. At that time when you declare before me "Holy…" I bow down upon it, press close, embrace and kiss it, My hands upon his arms, three times."
Babylonian Talmud Hullin 91b
A Tanna taught: They ascended to look at the image (דיוקנא) above andדיוקנא) descended to look at the image ) below. They wished to hurt him(לסכוניה בעו) , when Behold, the Lord stood beside him (Gen 28:13).
R. Simeon b. Lakish said: Were it not expressly stated in the Scripture, we would not dare to say it. [God is made to appear] like a man who is fanning his son (כאדם שמניף על בנו) .