By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
In this week’s Torah portion of Vayeitzei (Bereishis [Genesis] 28:10-32:3), we read the story of Jacob's dream and the famous ladder with its feet on the ground and head in the heavens. "And behold the angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it."
Let me ask you what they might call in Yiddish, a klotz kashe (simplistic question). Do angels need a ladder? Everyone knows angels have wings, not feet. So, if you have wings, why would you need a ladder?
There is a beautiful message here.
In climbing heavenward one does not necessarily need wings. Dispense with the dramatic. There is a ladder, a spiritual route clearly mapped out for us; a route that needs to be traversed step-by-step, one rung at a time. The pathway to Heaven is gradual, methodical and eminently manageable.
Many people are discouraged from even beginning a spiritual journey because they think it needs that huge leap of faith. They cannot see themselves reaching a degree of religious commitment which to them seems otherworldly. And yet, with the gradual step-by-step approach, one finds that the journey can be embarked upon and that the destination aspired to is actually not in outer space.
A fellow walks into a rabbi’s office, saying, "Rabbi, I want to become 'frum' (fully observant), - now tell me what I must do?” - Now, isn’t that a rabbi’s dream come true for a congregant? Never!
Why not? Because a commitment like that is often here today and gone tomorrow. Like the popular saying, "Easy come, easy go." The correct and most successful method of achieving our Jewish objectives is the slow and steady approach. Gradual, yet consistent. As soon as one has become comfortable with one mitzvah, it is time to start on the next, and so on and so forth.
A teacher once asked the following question: "If two people are on a ladder, one at the top and one on the bottom, who is higher?" The class thought it was a pretty dumb question -- until the wise teacher explained that they were not really capable of judging who was higher or lower until they first ascertained in which direction each was headed.
If the fellow on top was going down, but the guy on the bottom was going up, then conceptually, the one on the bottom was actually higher.
And so my friends, it doesn't really matter what your starting point is or where you are at on the ladder of religious life. As long as you are moving in the right direction, as long as you are going up, you will, please G-d, succeed in climbing the heavenly heights.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Yossy Goldman)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!