With Rabbi Shaul ROSENBLATT.
Jacob’s dream is of a ladder ascending to Heaven. The rabbis understand this as a metaphor. The way to heaven is a ladder. You climb it rung by rung. There may be the odd rung or two that you can skip, but in general, it’s a slow and continuous process.
There were no lifts or escalators at the time the Torah was written, but even if there were, the metaphor would remain a ladder. There are no shortcuts. If a person wants to become a great human being, it’s a day-to-day process, climbing one rung at a time. Living, as we do, in a quick fix generation, this can be a little hard for us to swallow. We are always looking for shortcuts. We’d rather tie our stomachs or suction out the fat instead of going on a diet; work so we can pay a nanny rather than look after the children ourselves; send an impersonal text rather than the ‘effort’ of relating to someone on a phone call – let alone meeting face-to-face.
There are many roads that offer shortcuts to Heaven – minus the real effort. Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) is one example. Learn the mystical books, wear red strings on your wrist, drink the holy water and Heaven is yours. Or the success road – make a lot of money, give it very visibly to charity and allow everyone to tell you how wonderful you are and how you are on the quick elevator that doesn’t even stop at floors along the way.
After all, when enough people tell us something, we start to believe it our- selves. But the metaphor the Torah uses is a ladder and it is a more relevant and necessary metaphor than it has ever been. You want to reach your full potential as a human being? You need to get out into the world today and find the good that you can do, seek wisdom to learn and grown. Then you need to do the same again tomorrow, the same again the day after and the same again the day after that.
The days need to become weeks, the weeks months, the months years and the years decades. And slowly, but very surely, you ascend the ladder. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. Live a good life, live it quietly and humbly but steadily. That’s the path to greatness and the path to ultimate fulfilment in Judaism – the path to Heaven.
• Rabbi Rosenblatt is founder of Tikun UK