July 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

So what’s the best way to get to heaven? Perform some amazing act of faith? Save a thousand lives? Well, a pretty good answer may be found in this week’s parsha.

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 God 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. Forget about fancy leaps and bounds. 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 that 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.

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, I would pass a very big building on my way to school every morning. It was the King’s County Savings Bank. All these years later I still remember the Chinese proverb that was engraved over the large portals at the entrance to the bank. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.” Now that’s not only Chinese wisdom; we Jews agree. And it’s not limited to starting a savings plan. It is a simple yet powerful idea that it need not be “all or nothing.”

What do you think is a rabbi’s fantasy? A guy walking into my office and saying, “Rabbi, I want to become frum (fully observant), now tell me what I must do”? Is that what I lie awake dreaming of? And if it did happen, do you think I would throw the book at him and insist he did every single mitzvah from that moment on? Never! Why not? Because a commitment like that is usually here today and gone tomorrow. Like the popular saying goes, “Easy come, easy go.” I’m afraid I haven’t had such wonderful experiences with the “instant Jew” types. 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. Then, through constant growth, slowly but surely we become more knowledgeable, committed, fulfilled and happy in our faith.

When my father was in yeshiva, his 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 God, succeed in climbing the heavenly heights.

Wishing you a safe and successful journey.


Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1976 he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been senior rabbi of the Sydenham Shul since 1986, president of the South African Rabbinical Association and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. His book “From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading” was recently published by Ktav, and is available at Jewish bookshops or online.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles