Yaakov meets the daughter of his mother’s brother at the well, and falls in love with her. What is it about wells that makes them the vehicle for matchmaking? The obvious explanation is that the village well is the community’s vital center—the place where people meet and mingle on a daily basis. Really the question isn’t why wells play so prominent a role in matchmaking, but why the Torah bothers to tell us something so obvious.
The story of Yaakov’s dream dialogues with a much earlier story, the story of the Tower of Babel. There, the tower builders set out to “make a name for themselves”. They would build a tower—a ziggurat—with its top in the heavens. But the true encounter cannot be forced. Yaakov’s vision comes to him when he is at his most vulnerable—alone, at night, in a strange place, far from home and fleeing his brother. Asleep and helpless to defend himself even against dreams. While the tower builders constituted a single unified society bent on wresting the secrets of the heavens, Yaakov is one man, alone in a stony land, suspended between a painful past and an uncertain future.