Connecting Heaven and Earth
In this week’s parashah we continue the saga of Jacob. Last Shabbat we left him saying goodbye to his family as he fled for his life after deceiving his brother and stealing his birthright and blessing. In parashat Vayetzei we find Jacob alone for the first time. The man who enjoyed being inside with his mother has been cast into the harsh wilderness. Now, finally, Jacob will have to make decisions for himself, he will have to shape his own destiny, he will begin the journey to discover who he really is. At this crucial juncture Jacob rests for the night beneath the stars and he has a dream. He sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending upon it.
Many commentators have offered suggestions about the meaning of the ladder, the angels and the lessons they teach us. An interesting interpretation of this passage and its meaning suggests that the angels ascending and descending on the ladder represent Jacob’s heritage; his grandfather and his father. Abraham, Jacob’s father was a man of action and of the earth. He was someone who took hold of life and his destiny and shaped it the way he wanted it to be. Isaac however, was very different. He was less concerned with matters of the earth and more with the heavens. Events happened to Isaac and he remained passive and quiet. In his narrative there is little dialogue from him and his concerns seem to be for another realm. Therefore, the angels going up the ladder from the earth represent Abraham, man of action, man of this place and the angels coming down the ladder represent Isaac, man of the heavens, and Jacob is the ladder linking the two. Jacob finds the balance between the two realms, he is the connection which enables the heavens and the earth to touch. And perhaps it is because Jacob could provide this link that he merits the honor of becoming Israel.
The message of our parashah is to try and become like Jacob, linking heaven and earth through our deeds, our actions and our thoughts. Reaching always for the heavens whilst remaining grounded on the earth in the here and now.
Every time we recite a blessing we elevate the mundane to the holy and we become that ladder, turning everyday moments into times of holiness and blessing. May we continue to help heaven and earth touch in the kiss of our deeds so that we, like Jacob, can exclaim “God was in this place!”