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The Base of the Ladder -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 12/01/22

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

December 1, 2022

7 Kislev 5783

Parashat Vayetzei

In this week's parashah, we read of Jacob's famous dream. As he was running away from his angry brother, he stopped and spent the night in the woods. As he lay asleep, he dreamt of a huge ladder that started on the ground and went up to the clouds. Angels were going up and down the ladder—from the earth to the heavens and back down again. The word for "angel" in Hebrew is "mal-'ach" which literally means "messenger." So, in his dream, Jacob saw God's angels relaying messages between God and humanity. As a result of this image of God's messengers traveling back and forth between God's realm and the Earth, the rabbinic interpretation of this dream was that Jacob slept on the future site of the Temple. In other words, the messages being delivered were human prayers and Divine responses. I have always been intrigued by the image of angels having to "schlep" our prayers up a ladder to God and then bring an answer back down to us. It implies that prayer is hard work. It reminds us that we really have to make an effort to reach God, if we want God to respond to us in some way. God sends messengers to help, but still, we have to make the first move. It also follows that the closer we are to God, the easier it is to send messages back and forth. In the Torah, the ideal place to reach out to God was Beth El (House of God)—the future site of the Temple. Sure, our ancestors reached out to God from other places, but some places are clearly better than others. Over the past few years, we have learned how to create sacred space anywhere—the living room, the basement, the home office. All we needed was an internet connection. It’s possible to reach out to God and one another that way, but just like in the Torah, some places are better than others. In the Jewish world today, that better place is the synagogue. We’ve really seen an uptick in activity in the synagogue in recent weeks. We’ve celebrated baby-namings, b’nai mitzvah, anniversaries, and a life well lived. It almost felt like 2019 again—back when we didn’t think twice about coming together as a community. As God said to Moses when giving the instructions for the first designated place of worship: “Let them make for me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).” I have felt the Divine Presence among us. The base of Jacob's ladder is right here in the synagogue. Come join us as we send and receive messages. Shalom, RAF.

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