Journey Up a Ladder

Friday, 12 November, 2021 - 8:02 am

My family had the great merit of welcoming a new baby boy into our family this week. It didn’t happen overnight. I marvel at Esther grace in enduring nine months of pregnancy. She makes it seem so effortless and casual.

But, as we all know it’s a process. It takes time. And, this is for the baby’s benefit. We don’t want shortcuts in the baby’s development.


As I flew home last week from New York, I contemplated the relatively quick shift from the Big Apple to Boise.  Spending a long weekend with colleagues and family immersed in Torah, Chassidic inspiration and simply surrounded by Jewish culture was a special treat. 

Thanks to the invention and advances of the airplane, several hours later I was transported back to Boise. As the Yiddish saying goes, “It’s good to travel, but it’s better to come home.”

This radical shift between one place and another reminded me of the story of Jacob’s dream in this week’s parsha Vayetze. Yaakov dreams of a ladder rooted on the ground but reaching heavenward. Angels are ascending and descending the ladder.  Pages have been written about the symbolism of this dream. Yet the Zohar makes a simple statement regarding the ladder, namely: “This is prayer.”

I’ve always appreciated the concept of prayers traveling heavenward.  The Zohar’s metaphor, enjoins us to recognize that our prayers are indeed transported to G-d on high. Someone is listening.

But looking more deeply at the comparison of prayer to a ladder, the message is not simply about the destination of prayer. 

As my flight lifted off the runway, I marveled at how effortlessly I seemed to be transported from earth to heaven; from New York to Idaho.  Imagine making the journey by foot or even by car.  It would be an entirely different journey, with greater exertion necessary and a significantly delayed arrival at my endpoint.

Taken from that vantage point, Jacob’s dream did not need a ladder. After all, angels can figure out a way to shuffle between heaven and earth rather quickly. Why do they need a mode of transport at all?

But I believe that the Zohar is not simply explaining the destination of prayer. Rather it is teaching us about the process of prayer.  Many a time I find myself wanting to be at the destination of prayer – be it having my prayers answered or reaching the spiritual high of bonding with G-d.  In a world of instant gratification even our sacred endeavors suffer.

It’s not how quickly you get to your destination, says the Zohar, but how thoroughly you arrive. If we want prayer to affect change within our souls and bodies, we need to internalize every step of the way.

The airplane might get us there quickest, but the journeys that remain with us forever are the road trips and hikes – the voyages that receive our sweat and attention.

And, something I have never experienced, but admire from afar – the journey of gestation.

Next time you pick up a siddur, enjoy the challenge and focus on the energy of each rung.

Comments on: Journey Up a Ladder
There are no comments.