Up and Down… Down and Up

“Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran.  He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.  He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of G-d were going up and down on it.”

(Genesis 28:10-12)  The above is a fresco of this famous Biblical scene that is housed at the Vatican.  The story of Jacob’s ladder is famous and beloved.  My personal favorite lesson in this story is that the angels are going up and down the ladder, not down and up, as you might expect.  The angels’ home base is here on earth.  Going up and down the ladder, they bring an awareness of G-d’s presence to our everyday existence.  Thus Jacob remarks, “G-d was in this place and I did not know it.”

Where was this place where Jacob discovered G-d?  In the middle of nowhere.  It was not a place that he knew.  It was on the way between Beersheba and Haran.  It was on the journey.  I spoke with a Journal News reporter today about my upcoming trip to the Vatican.  She asked me about the often strained relationship between Catholics and Jews.  I spoke (perhaps naively, one might think) about building bridges of peace on our trip.  She replied, “Well, that’s optimistic.”  Yes, perhaps, but a journey begins with one step followed by another and another.  With luck, there are angels on our path, going up and going down, translating our words and our songs into a concrete stone – a cornerstone of peace, Jacob’s pillow, a foundation where dreams are made.  And G-d will be in this place.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hilary on November 11, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Beautifully said! Amen.


  2. Posted by beth levine on November 12, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I too love the parsh. I love the aspect that you beautifully pointed out and I also love one other thing about it. Jacob, having awakened from his dream cold easily have felt prideful that G-d had visited him. But instead he was filled with awe, trembling with fear. He was humbled. I find this to be very special and of great merit to Jacob, as did our sages.


  3. Posted by Marsha Ventura on November 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Well said. Your group’s actions ARE extending the foundation of the cornerstone of peace, which you mentioned. You are not, as your interviewer cynically suggested, naively optimistic, but maturely, intelligently, working for the healing this world so grievously needs. I think that wherever people are trying to create bonds of friendship and peace between one another, they have invited the presence of G-d, by whatever name they call Him, and He is there. If good people did nothing to support such an end, how much sadder a place the world would be.


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