Genesis 28:10 finds us with one of the most famous stories of Torah. Jacob is fleeing to Haran on the “advice” of his mother Rebecca. Esau, whose blessing Jacob has obtained (some say stolen) from Isaac, is angered. The actions of Jacob have created family friction and so he sets off to “the old country” to find refuge in his mother’s clan. The portion begins with Jacob coming to a certain place where he must rest for the night. He lays down to sleep and dreams of a “sulam”, a stairway (some say ladder), connecting earth to the heavens with “angels of God going up and down on it”. It is this famous dream that finds Jacob uttering one of the great lines of Torah. He dreams of God who blesses him with a promise of eventual prosperity. He wakes and says: “Surely God is present in this place and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16)
Back to that stairway, or ladder. The Conservative commentary, Etz Hayim, gives us an interesting insight into this passage. It reminds us, that in our developing our relationship with God, we do so one step at a time, “making one small change in our lives and stablilizing it before we take another step. Sometimes we slip and miss a step, falling back, but we recover and keep climbing”.
The comment seems to ring true for many of us. We look back on our lives and see that this journey is a collection of small steps. Usually never in a straight line, but, over a life time, we hope moving forward. So often we wish or expect to see progress in big momentus events. However, more often than not, our progress is a series of those small steps. That ladder, that stairway, that “sulam” is very symbolic of many of our life passages. We need to keep focused on the hope that those steps lead us to achieve a relationship with that which is sacred. That is a dream we all share.
Rabbi Richard F ADdress, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.