Many of you know that in March my husband is running the Jerusalem marathon. When he runs the streets of Los Angeles, he refuses to wear headphones, always trying to be aware of the landscape and environment around him. The other day I asked him, “How do you keep going? What motivates you to keep up your pace?” He explained that he constantly encourages himself to run one more block. Not one more mile—in the moment, that goal seems too lofty. One more street light. One more corner. And before he knows it, he has reached his determined destination…or gone even further.
It is that kind of pedagogy revealed in Vayetzei, this week’s Torah portion. Jacob’s famous dream includes a ladder ascending to heaven with angels climbing up and then down. And so many of us can’t help but ask, “Why a ladder?” Surely divine creatures do not need a ladder to reach the celestial realm. Flying up and down or appearing and disappearing. This seems more in the range of “angel transport.” But a ladder? What is the purpose in watching a godly being walking up to heaven, rung by rung?
The Talmud shares the lesson, “Sins which one treads under heel in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.” Meaning, every step we take in this world makes a difference. Heel by heel, sole by sole, we walk towards our goals, achieving great leaps and bounds through a seemingly laborious pace. Whether our small steps are for good or evil, every decisive foot we plant has repercussions in this world and the world to come. The lesson learned is that we must continue climbing the ladder of life. Reaching for one rung may not seem so illustrious. But before we know it, one rung has turned into many which then turns into more we could even dream of achieving.
You may be just stepping onto your ladder or perhaps you’re a few rungs up.
One step at a time…you are making an impact, on earth and in heaven above.