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jacob's ladder

12/05/2019 12:38:21 PM


Rabbi Dan Dorsch


This week a congregant shared with me an interpretation of the story of Jacob’s ladder that had to do with the survival of the Jewish people. According to the interpretation she heard, the angel moving up and down the ladder yet always surviving is symbolic of how we, the Jewish people, have endured throughout our history.


I’ve heard this survivalist interpretation before. But alas, it’s not for me.


For me, the key to understanding this story lies in its ending. Jacob awakens on the mountain after having his fantastical dream and realizes that he has experienced God in an otherwise ordinary place. “How awesome is this holy place,” Jacob remarks, “and I didn’t even know it.”


I believe that all of us have angels that like the angels in Jacob’s ladder come in and out of our lives. Sometimes, there are obvious moments in our lives where we experience holiness: the holy days, childbirth, the death of a loved one, etc. However, the reality is that most of us, like Jacob, ignore these moments of holiness when they occur in the everyday.


Yet imagine if Lot and his family had ignored the seemingly ordinary people who knocked on his door and who would eventually lead his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah? Or, if later in our Genesis story, Joseph did not encounter the mysterious person who told him where his brothers were dwelling in Shechem? If Jacob and our ancestors had dismissed these moments as mere dreams or nothing of significance, would we be here today?


Sometimes, holiness stares us right in the face. In most other instances, this story reminds us that whether we choose to recognize the guiding angels in our lives is entirely up to us.

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Thu, February 20 2020 25 Shevat 5780