Uziel Meizlish, Tiferes Uziel, Parshat Vayetzei.
וַיַּחֲלֹם וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱ־לֹהִים עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ
And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its head reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. Genesis 28:12
ויחלוֹם והנה סולם מוצב ארצה וגו’, הוא האדם, וראשו מגיע השמימה, ראשו הוא השכל על דרך החכם עיניו בראשו ומלאכי הוא שלוחי אלהים כוחות עליונים עולים ויורדים בו כי מלאכי קדושה יש להם עליה בתורה ומע’’ט וכוחות חיצונים יש להם ירידה ע’’י מצות
This is the human being. His head reaches heaven, because his mind is always on the source of all things. Angels ascending and descending: divine forces are raised up through [our] Torah study and good deeds, while “outer” forces are lowered through our performance of mitzvot.
In this very short teaching you have several fundamentals of Hasidism. First, reading the heavenly worlds (the ladder and its angels) as a description of people’s inner spiritual topography. When the Tiferes Uziel rereads the neuter its as his (allowed by grammatical rules, if not context), applying the description to Jacob and thus to all of us, he’s following in the footsteps of his teacher, the Maggid of Mezeritch, who said, “I’ve come to teach that everything the previous masters said about heaven can also be said of man.” My translation of the following line, “his mind is always on the source of all things,” is actually an explanation of the cited verse, The wise man’s eyes are in his head (Kohelet 2:14). One of the Baal Shem Tov’s favorite teachings was on this verse. He would ask, “Where else would his eyes be? This must mean something deeper: that his sight is focused on the ‘head,’ the source of all existence.” Thus to be a Hasid means to always have your mind on God — but not at the expense of what is right in front of you, for while the ladder’s “head reaches heaven” its feet are firmly “set upon the ground.” This bridging of the higher and lower worlds, infusing the spiritual into the mundane, is what Hasidism is all about. This happens in part through our awareness, and also through concrete actions in the world. Embracing the radical theurgy of the Kabbalah, Hasidism teaches that our good deeds affect not only this world but the worlds above, all the way up to God’s own self, empowering God, as it were, to act on the divine will, which is only to pour out blessing upon us. I also think it’s no surprise that the Tiferes Uziel roots this teaching in Jacob’s encounter with God, after which he says, “God is in this place, and I did not know it! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” If I had to pick one verse that sums up Hasidism’s message, this might be it.