After Yaakov woke up he was afraid, and he said, “אין זה כי אם בית אלוקים וזה שער השמים this is not, rather the house of G-d and this is the gateway of the heavens.” What do the words “this is not, rather the house of G-d” mean? What is it not, and what indeed is it? Onkelos translates the words אין זה כי אם בית אלוקים as “this is not an ordinary place, rather it is a place which has in it favor from before Hashem.” The Nefesh HaGer says that Onkelos adds this is not an “ordinary place” in order to clarify, what it is not, by filling in the missing point. This is not a regular ordinary place, rather it is a special unique place, as it has in it favor from Hashem.
Onkelos does not translate בית אלקים, literally, the house of Hashem, since it states in Yeshaya “אי זה בית תבנו לי which house can you build for Me?” There is no place where Hashem is confined to and dwells in, rather it is a place which Hashem’s favor is found there. The Nefesh HaGer explains this b’shem Rashi, it is a place for people’s davening to ascend to the heavens. The Ibn Ezra adds, any person in need can go there to daven and it will be heard since it is a chosen place where Hashem answers prayers.
In kedusha we say “מלא כל הארץ כבודו the entire world is filled with His honor.” Yet we also say “איה מקום כבודו where is His honor?” This seems to be a contradiction, on one hand His honor fills the whole world, yet on the other hand it is not known where His honor is? I heard an answer that there are different levels of kedusha depending on the place. The Rabbeinu Yona brings b’shem the Ge’onim, if a person cannot daven with a minyan, he should still daven in a Shul, and so the Shulchan Aruch paskens. The Mishnah Berura explains this is because it is a place which is set permanently for kedusha and there his davening will be answered more than in a regular place. We see that the kedusha of an ordinary place is not like the kedusha of a Shul or Beis Midrash, while their kedusha is not as holy as the Beis HaMikdosh. We see there are different levels of kedusha coexisting in the world, each in their respective places. Hashem fills the whole world but there is more kedusha in certain places over others. The question of “Where is the place of His honor” refers to a level of kedusha which is beyond the angels’ sight and awareness.
The passuk ends “וזה שער השמים and this is the gateway of the heavens.” The Nesina LaGer asks, how is it possible for a place on land to be considered the gateway of the heavens? The Nesina LaGer says, Onkelos answers this by translating וזה שער השמים as “and this is the gateway which is opposite the heavens.” The Nefesh HaGer explains this with Rashi b’shem the Midrash; the Beis HaMikdosh in the heavens above is situated exactly opposite the Beis HaMikdosh below on land. Yaakov slept in the place which is the gateway opposite the heavens, where people’s davening ascends to Hashem.
The Midrash Tanchuma brings, our Mikdash below is exactly aligned with and parallel to the throne of Hashem above as it states “מכון לשבתך.” The Eitz Yosef explains, it is inferred from the lashon מכון, מכוון aligned. It is aligned parallel to Hashem’s dwelling. The Tanchuma brings, Yerushalayim above is aligned with the Yerushalayim below. Because of Hashem’s great love for the Yerushalayim below He made another one above.
May Hashem build the Beis HaMikdosh which is the gateway to the heavens!