Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman
The Ladder of Life
In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, our forefather Yaakov has a dream. In this dream, G-d shows him a ladder that is on the ground with its top reaching the heavens. Many commentaries explain that G-d used the ladder to convey a message to Yaakov that in addition to following in his father’s footsteps, he needs to continuously grow. The question arises – why is he being given this message now? Shouldn’t this message have been given to him when he was much younger?
Horav Yeruchum Olshin, one of the Roshei Hayeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, points out that this was a critical time in Yaakov’s life. He was about to enter the world of Lavan, his corrupt uncle, and once there he was about to be challenged in ways that he couldn’t imagine. His morals, values and integrity would be put to the test. He recognized that and prayed that when he would eventually return to his father’s home he would have retained the levels of righteousness he had before he had left. However, G-d was telling him that it wasn’t sufficient to just maintain levels of righteousness; one needs to continuously grow. Yaakov’s task while in Lavan’s house was to overcome whatever challenges he might face and continue his spiritual growth.
What a great lesson for all of us. We must realize that our own education in yeshivos and growth in our synagogue life is not enough. We can’t remain stagnant in our growth. Instead, we need to view our interactions of daily living, no matter what the conditions might be, as opportunities for us to continuously develop, mature and flourish. We must emulate our forefather Yaakov and keep climbing the ladder of life.