I recently met a young couple before their chuppah and mentioned that marriage is about growing together and embracing challenges. The more I tried to develop the point, the more I was met by blank stares. I asked their goals for their marriage.
“We have put down a deposit on a three-bedroom semi. In time we’ll move to a four bedroom detached and we’re dreaming of the country house on a gated road.” It was clear my message of growing together had not hit the spot.
In our parsha, Jacob flees the family home and is ambushed on the way, leaving him bereft of all material possessions. He lies down exhausted into a deep sleep and has a prophetic dream. His monumental ladder features angels.
Jacob is setting off to ‘go it alone’ into the great unknown, eventually becoming Yisrael – the ultimate patriarch of the Jewish people who bear his name. One of the most powerful messages of the dream is that a meaningful life is a dynamic one replete with ups and downs. Life, as Jacob is about to find out, is all about struggle and challenge.
At the outset of his epic journey, God gives him one of the most important messages a Jew can ever receive. Life is not static; it is about engaging in the ongoing struggle for meaningful growth, not the accumulation of material things. It is about continually striving to be, do and make better.
Rather than dream of a challenge-free existence, this week’s vision encourages us towards constant growth of who we are, our meaningful goals, and our commitment to stay in the ring, no matter how tough the fight may be.
Rabbi Naftali Schiff is CEO of Jewish Futures Trust