“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.